Learn more about the different education levels in the Netherlands and where to take your kids to school in the Leiden region.

The philosophy behind the Dutch education system reflects the mentality of the Dutch society as a whole and aims to encourage students to live and learn in an open-minded and creative manner. Generally, schools in the Netherlands offer high-quality education.  

Compulsory education (leerplicht) in the Netherlands applies to all children aged 5 to 16, or until they have a diploma. Due to this obligation, schools will not give parents permission to take children out of school outside of official school holidays.  

Education in the Netherlands consists of the following levels:  

  • Nursery School (not compulsory)  
  • Primary Education / Elementary Education (basisschool; age 4 - 12)  
  • Secondary Education (VMBO, HAVO, VWO; age 12 - 16/17/18)  
  • Tertiary Education:   
    • Senior Secondary Vocational Education  (Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs - MBO and company schools)  
    • Higher Vocational Education  (Hoger Beroepsonderwijs - HBO)  
    • University  (Universiteit, Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs - WO)  

The Dutch education system also includes special needs schools, at both primary (Speciaal basisonderwijs, SBO; speciaal onderwijs, SO) and secondary (VSO) levels.

The Dutch school system

By watching this animation, you will learn all about how the Dutch school system is structured. 

This animation is made by Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education. Nuffic plays an important role in fostering international cooperation in education between the Netherlands and other countries. Its goal is to support Dutch institutions and the Dutch government in internationalisation activities.

Go to Nuffic
The Dutch school system explained
  • The Dutch school system explained

Home-Start Support

Home-Start is a volunteer initiative that supports families who are experiencing a difficult phase in family life and parenting: trouble with children, little contact with family or friends, divorce or finding a balance between family and work life. The organisation is active in Leiden, Leiderdorp, Oegstgeest, Voorschoten and Zoeterwoude. Home-Start offers a sympathetic ear, a helping hand with the children, advice and attention for families with children till the age of 18 and from 3 months pregnancy. Trained volunteers provide informal support in English and sometimes other languages, some being internationals themselves or having experienced living abroad.

For more information

Our Partners in Childcare and Education