Dutch Education System

There are approximately 700 secondary schools in the Netherlands, both state and privately run. Secondary education encompasses schools providing pre-university education (VWO (atheneum and gymnasium) 6 years, age 12-18), senior general secondary education (HAVO; 5 years; age 12-17), pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO; 4 years, age 12-16) and Practical Training (PRO; age 12-18). All four types of secondary education are for children aged twelve and up and all begin with a period of general secondary education.

Pupils who are unable to obtain a VMBO qualification, even with long-term extra help, can receive practical training to prepare them for a position on the labour market.

In vocational education, courses of study have been adjusted to better suit the labour market. In light of the ever-growing demand for MBO (upper secondary vocational education) and HBO (higher professional education) graduates, an important goal for the coming years is to encourage students to move on to higher secondary school levels and to prevent students from dropping out.

The supervision of the quality of Dutch education is partly entrusted to the government’s national Education Inspection Commission. Dutch schools are financed by the government. They receive a fixed amount of funding each year to be spent on facilities, salaries and further education of staff as they see fit.

Upper forms specialisations

Pupils specialise after the third year of their secondary education. They choose one of four pro-files that will prepare them for higher education:

  • Science and health
  • Science and technology
  • Economics and society
  • Culture and society

Each profile consists of:

  • Mandatory subjects (regardless of the profile), such as Dutch, Mathematics and English.
  • Specialist subjects, such as Physics for the science and technology profile.
  • Electives, which can be chosen from another profile.

The VMBO programme consists of a theoretical and a professional oriented stream. The theoretical pathway is meant for pupils who may wish to join the HAVO programme, or who want to defer their choice of profession since specialisation only takes place in the third year. There are four specialisations:

  • Economics
  • Healthcare
  • Engineering
  • Agriculture

The professional pathway is a practice-oriented education. After two years, pupils choose one of the following four professional specialisations:

  • Economy and Enterprise
  • Care and Well-being
  • Construction, Domestic living and Interior design
  • Producing, Installing and Energy