Your search for a school will begin with choosing between an international or a Dutch school, both of which have their advantages. If you plan to stay in the Netherlands for a short period or move to another foreign country in the future, an international school may provide your child with a sense of continuity. If you would like your child to experience the local culture and pick up the language, you may prefer a Dutch school.
Another important factor to consider is the difference in cost. Most Dutch schools are funded by the government. Parents will pay a small contribution, between €50 and €800 per year. A few international schools are partly subsidised by the Dutch government, or by the country they are linked to, and the fees average €4,500 per annum. For a private international school, however, you pay at least €12,000 a year.
In the Netherlands, there are four types of international schools:
- government-funded Dutch schools with an international education department;
- private international schools;
- foreign national schools;
- schools associated with embassies.
An international school follows either an international curriculum, or a curriculum that is in line with the educational system and legislation of a specific country other than the Netherlands. These schools are mainly attended by foreign children.
Foreign Children in Dutch Schools
4 and 5-year-olds who don’t speak Dutch can usually start a regular primary school straight away. They usually pick up the language quickly and are (almost) fluent before the ‘real learning' starts at age 6.
Children aged 6 and older are usually required to follow a Dutch immersion programme first. This takes about one year, after which they can continue their education with children of the same age at a regular school. There is also an immersion programme at secondary level for children aged 12-18. Taking this route can be challenging, and children often ‘lose’ a year. In this case it is often easier for your child to go to an international secondary school instead.
How to find a Dutch school
The website of your municipality is a good place to start, but these websites are likely to be in Dutch only. Nonetheless, they will provide you with a list of schools in the region. Please find here a glossary of Dutch words that will be useful in your school search. On the following websites you can find more information on regular schools in the Netherlands. Here you can find and compare schools nearby or compare all schools in the Netherlands.
The 'Guide to Choosing a School 2020' provides a lot of detailed information about the options for primary education in Leiden. Visit the schools you are interested in on an ‘information morning’ (informatie-ochtend). Ask lots of questions, for example how much experience they have in teaching non-Dutch children. See also the extensive 'Checklist Basisschool'.
Visit several schools so you can get a feel for each school – it is a very personal decision. When deciding upon the school for your child, you determine to a large extent how they will learn academically and how they will grow emotionally, physically, and socially.
Dutch Education by New2NL
Our partner New2NL has made several useful documents to help you choose a school for your child:
- How to choose a school in the Leiden region
- Checklist Primary Schools
- Checklist International Schools
In addition, you can have a look at her Education Webinar from 2022, where she will discuss the level of Dutch education compared to other countries, the differences in educational philosophies (Montessori, Dalton, Waldorf, etc.), preschool, secondary school, international schools, after-school care, and much, much more!New2NL