The Dutch education system is known for its flexibility and student-centered approach, beginning with early childhood education and continuing through primary and secondary schooling, culminating in higher education or vocational training. It emphasizes the development of individual talents and caters to different learning needs, preparing students for a globalized world. The system also provides multiple pathways for vocational and academic progression.
Early Childhood Education
Peuterspeelzaal (Playgroup)

Ages: 2-4

Social development, basic motor skills, and early learning through play.

Primary Education (Basisonderwijs)
Group 1 and 2 (Kindergarten)

Ages: 4-6

Pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, play-based learning, social skills.

Group 3

Ages: 6-7

Introduction to reading, writing, and basic arithmetic.

Group 4

Ages: 7-8

Development of reading and writing skills, introduction to basic subjects.

Group 5

Ages: 8-9

Consolidation of core academic skills, introduction to English language.

Group 6

Ages: 9-10

Enhanced focus on academic subjects, introduction to history and geography.

Group 7

Ages: 10-11

Further academic development, preparation for secondary education.

Group 8

Ages: 11-12

Final year of primary, focus on transition to secondary education, Cito test.

Secondary Education
VMBO (Preparatory Middle-Level Applied Education)

Ages: 12-16

Vocational education with theoretical and practical components.

HAVO (Higher General Secondary Education)

Ages: 12-17

Preparation for higher vocational education, broad curriculum with a focus on theoretical knowledge.

VWO (Pre-University Education)

Ages: 12-18

Academic-oriented education, preparation for university, emphasis on theoretical knowledge.

Higher Education
HBO (Universities of Applied Sciences)


Practical and career-oriented education, bachelor's and master's degrees.

WO (Research Universities)


Academic and research-focused education, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

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Netherlands education system info last updated on December 15, 2023