As an expat paradise in Northern Europe, the Netherlands is a small country welcoming people from all over the world. Fortunately, parents looking for a quality education for their children have many options of international schools in the Netherlands.
This Expatica article will review the Dutch education system, the different types of international schools, as well as international tuition fees in the Netherlands. Between the varied teaching methods, curriculum, student body composition, and cost, parents will need to do some research to find the right fit.
Supreme College of the Netherlands
Supreme College Nederland is an international school in Castricum. It offers a wide range of education for students aged 14 to 18, including the IB Middle Years programme. Supreme College offers more affordable tuition than other international schools, so give your child a global education without breaking the bank.
The Dutch education system
The Dutch education system assumes that education should be free; thus, you will find that government grants apply to normal public schools as well as some specially affiliated schools, such as Montessori, Dalton, and some religious and international schools. In general, most Dutch students attend public schools, most of which teach in Dutch. Expats therefore have the choice between enrolling their students in Dutch public schools, allowing them to integrate a little more fully (and learn the language!), and choosing a public or private international school.
International schools in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a business center that attracts people from all over the world. In fact, in recent years it has become so popular with expats that it can be quite difficult to find an international school that accepts new students. Waiting lists are definitely the norm here, with some going as long as two to four years, depending on the city.
Generally, the characteristic of international schools is that their student body is made up of expatriates; they also usually teach in English or another non-Dutch language, depending on the school affiliation. Finally, the curriculum of international schools is generally internationally accepted, such as the International Baccalaureate, or geared towards a particular nationality, such as an American school. You will find international schools that serve all levels of education as well as some that only serve particular classes.
Types of schools and international certificates
Parents who know they don’t want their children to attend a regular public school have a few options. Because the Dutch government offers equality in educational choice, some private schools or Dutch international schools (usually those following religious or pedagogical principles) can claim the same grants as Dutch public schools. Thus, expats have the choice between private international schools, which generally charge higher fees, and Dutch international schools (DIS).
Dutch International Schools (DIS)
DIS is partially funded by the government, so there are restrictions on who can attend. Typically, these schools are attached to regular state schools and aim to prepare students either for an educational transition abroad or for a transition to the Dutch education system. They teach in English, but the students also learn Dutch.
Depending on the school, DIS’ can offer different educational models such as the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), the British Curriculum and the International Baccalaureate. DIS charge much lower tuition fees than privately funded international schools: annual primary tuition fees typically range between €3,600 and €6,600, while secondary fees can vary between €5,500 and €8. €500.
Who can attend Dutch international schools?
Government-funded international schools are only available to certain families, so be sure to check your eligibility:
- Children of expats who live or work in the Netherlands for a long time
- Children of Dutch parents who have lived and attended school abroad
- Children of Dutch parents residing temporarily in the Netherlands
International Primary Program (CIP)
The International Primary Program is a globally recognized program that prioritizes cross-cultural awareness, student engagement, and academic rigor. Thus, each subject has learning objectives related to the student’s personal and community development. Generally, the IPC is aimed at pupils aged between five and 12 and is essentially an adaptation of the UK curriculum for international schools. Here are some international schools that offer the IPC:
International Baccalaureate in the Netherlands
The International Baccalaureate is internationally recognized as a rigorous and structured program. Overall, students focus on essay writing, service projects, theory of knowledge, and critical thinking.
Typically, those who graduate from the Diploma Program will have studied science, arts, language, literature and mathematics; graduates also take a difficult exam at the end of high school. For students planning to apply to university across the world, an IB diploma is very useful simply because it is so widely recognized and respected. Ideally, you will find 23 IB schools in the Netherlands. Here are some of the schools offering the IB:
American International Schools and Advanced Placement
American schools follow the United States academic system, which divides education into elementary, middle, and high school. Typically, earning a degree requires students to complete school requirements and pass their coursework and exams. Subjects include English, social studies, math, science, and often a foreign language.
Overall, an American degree is extremely useful for students who plan to pursue post-secondary education in the United States and Canada. Some US schools also offer practical and relevant support, such as SAT prep courses and (college-level) advancement placement courses, or college enrollment counseling. Although there are various schools that loosely follow the American model, only one school is officially an American school:
UK International Schools
UK schools follow the English National Curriculum, which is standardized across the thousands of schools around the world that follow it. In fact, UK schools are a great option for students who can pursue their studies in the UK or the Commonwealth. Classes are taught in English and focus on problem solving, student growth and confidence building.
Overall, subjects include math, science, English, history, and foreign languages. Conveniently, most UK schools offer General International Secondary School Certificates, making it easier for students to get into university. Here are some of the British Curriculum schools:
International GCSE (IGCSE)
The General Secondary School International Certificate follows the British curriculum and culminates in an A level qualification. Typically, students’ courses include English language and literature, a foreign language, mathematics and science.
Most will take the IGCSE through the Cambridge International Examination Boards in the first two years of secondary school. Then, in the last two years, students pass their A level and these scores are essential for university applications. Most schools that follow the UK curriculum offer IGCSEs.
Other International National Schools
Because the Netherlands is home to people from all corners of the world, there are many schools that cater to different nationalities. Fees, programs and language of instruction vary by institution. Therefore, if you are looking for a school, be sure to do your homework. Here are some examples:
Due to the structure of education funding, many religious schools are subsidized by the Dutch government. Also keep in mind that they may teach primarily in Dutch and that school waiting lists, curriculum and policies vary from school to school, so be sure to do your research. Here are some examples :
Parents who prefer their children to attend non-conventional schools have a few options in the Netherlands. Keep in mind that schools will likely be split into primary and secondary levels, so your student may not benefit from the continuity offered by other schools. There are many options, such as:
Should you send your child to an international school?
Deciding whether or not to send your child to a private school is an important decision. International schools are great because the student body is diverse and because everything—from the curriculum to the teachers—reflects the understanding that students are foreigners. Some parents find this very comforting. Other parents, however, may prefer the integration opportunities and lower costs of regular public schools.
Some questions in your family chat may relate to topics such as:
- Is your child comfortable diving and learning Dutch?
- How long does your family plan to stay in the Netherlands and where is the likely next destination?
- Is your child likely to go to university and, if so, where?
How to Choose an International School in the Netherlands
The first thing you should consider is the city you live in and how far away the nearest international school is. Some cities have several options, while others have one or two. Keep in mind that not all schools offer transportation, so ask yourself how far you’re willing to travel by car, bike, or bus twice a day, every day.
Once you have the answers to these questions, check the waiting lists of the schools that interest you. Between these limitations, as well as the cost, you’ll probably only be left with a few options; be sure to visit each option and get your questions answered before making a decision.