Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dutch Education System

If you are sending your children to a Dutch school at some point in the future you may already be slightly baffled by the abbreviations you see littered in publications and on websites: VMBO, HAVO and HBO to name a few. Here's what it all means.

Pre-schooling (known as peuterspeelzaal) takes children from age 2 1/2 up to age 4.
  • Education is compulsory from the age of 5, but many children begin in a basisschool at age 4.
  • Public (state) schools are non-demoninational.
  • Private schools are generally faith or ideology based and up to two-thirds of Dutch children attend a private school.
  • Public and private schools are state funded, as long as they adhere to certain conditions.
  • Home schooling is generally not allowed, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as special needs or ideologies which cannot be catered for in mainstream education.
Secondary Schooling
  • Compulsory subjects in Dutch secondary schools are Dutch, English, maths, geography, history, sciences, physical education and arts and education at this level is streamed and split into three main study courses:
VMBO (Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs): a four-year course, which comprises vocational training and the core subjects at one of four levels.

HAVO (Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs): a five year study with three years of a standard set of subjects then a choice of tone set of subjects from four profiles to study in the final two years (known as Tweede Fase):
Culture & Society
Economy & Society
Nature & Health
Nature & Technology

VWO (Voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs): this prepares children for a higher education in the fields of science for the arts and lasts for six-years. It is offered in some schools as a bi-lingual course with 50% taught in English or German, which may be something of interest for expats or those bringing up bi-lingual children.

Higher Education

There are two principle types of higher education, both of which result in a Bachelor’s degree:

HBO (Hoger beroepsonderwijs): higher vocational education courses or professional training such as teacher training or performing arts. Students must have HAVO (or level 4 MBO) to attend this type of course, as well as the correct subject profile.

WO (Wetenschappelijk onderwijs): an academic or university education in arts or sciences. Students must have a VWO diploma or have completed one year HBO to enrol in a WO bachelor course.

Foreign students must demonstrate English language proficiency, take an entrance exam and have an equivalent qualification.

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