Education for children aged twelve and up

Once children leave primary school (bassisschool), they enter secondary education which generally continues until the age of 16 - 18, depending on the type of education chosen. All secondary schools start with a basic curriculum. Every student takes a wide variety of classes that are more or less the same regardless of which school is attended.  

In the Netherlands, there are different levels of secondary education

Lower secondary professional education (Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs - VMBO)  

Children are prepared for a practical internship followed by employment or vocational education. A VMBO course generally takes four years.  

General senior secondary education (Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs - HAVO)  

This course takes five years and prepares children for Higher Vocational Education/College/University of Applied Sciences (HBO).  

Pre-university education (Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs - VWO)  

This course takes six years and is the admission level for universities.  

The Ministry of Education, culture and Science has a webpage with information on secondary schools. 

Find out more about the differences between Dutch and International schools on our page: How to choose the right school

Dutch Schools for children 12+

There are immersion programmes at secondary level for children aged 12-18 who don't speak Dutch, after which the pupils can move into a regular secondary school. 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.  

International Secondary Schools

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.  



Overview of international secondary schools in the Leiden region:

More about Education