Dutch education system

Education is compulsory in the Netherlands between the ages of 5 and 16.

The Dutch education system consists of 8 years of primary education, 4, 5 or 6 years of secondary education (depending on the type of school) and 2 to 6 years of higher education (depending on the type of education and the specialisation). Both public and private institutions exist at all levels of the education system; the private institutions are mostly based on religious or ideological principles.

Primary and secondary education

Primary education is intended for children in the age group 4 to 12 and is compulsory for children from the age of 5. At the age of 12 children go to one of the following types of secondary education:

  • Preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo) - 4 years in duration
  • Senior general secondary education (havo) - 5 years in duration
  • University preparatory education (vwo) - 6 years in duration

There are more and more bilingual secondary schools and there is a pilot project with several bilingual primary schools as well.

For further education after the age of 16 students can go to vocational education, or to higher education (depending on the type of diploma they obtained).


More information

Education system the Netherlands (2.3 MB)(extensive description)
The Dutch education system(67 kB) (diagram)

last modified Mar 08, 2018 09:42 PM