Living in The Hague?
Education in The Hague
Publicly vs. Privately Run Schools
In the Netherlands, there are three types of schools: publicly run schools, privately run schools, and fully private and independent schools.
Public schools provide education on the behalf of the state; for this reason, they can’t refuse to admit any students for religious or ideological reasons. Privately run schools, however, do often base their teaching on specific religious and ideological beliefs. They can therefore be selective and only admit students of a certain faith (e.g. Catholic, Muslim) or those whose parents support their pedagogy (e.g. Waldorf schools).
Both kinds of schools are entitled to funding from the Dutch government. Therefore, they need to maintain various quality standards set by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science — for example, the subjects they offer or the content of national examinations.
The Dutch Education System
At both publicly and privately run schools, the Netherlands offers a comprehensive education. Schooling is obligatory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16, although most children will start school at the age of 4. Primary and secondary education is usually free, although the schools may demand parental contributions for extracurricular activities or school trips. This contribution is voluntary, though, and depends on the parents’ income as well. It ranges from about 200 EUR to 2,000 EUR per year.
Primary education usually lasts for around eight years until the students have reached the age of twelve. Subjects must at least cover a core curriculum: Dutch, English, arithmetic and mathematics, social and environmental studies (e.g. geography or biology), creative activities (e.g. arts or music), as well as sport and movement. Primary schools often teach their students about life skills and healthy living as well.
After-school centers are also available for children attending primary school, after school hours, on Wednesday afternoons, and during the school holidays.
Secondary Education in the Netherlands
After eight years of attending primary school, students will receive a recommendation on further academic options from their teachers and receive (non-binding) advice on which type of secondary school fits them best. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of secondary education in the Netherlands.
- The VMBO lasts for four years and is supposed to be a foundational course mainly for those who want to take up vocational training.
- Taking five years altogether, the HAVO is supposed to provide students with a basic general education and prepare them for higher professional training.
- The VWO is the academic pathway. It takes six years altogether and is supposed to prepare students for university. After the first three years, students have to focus on one of the following areas: nature and technology, nature and health, economy and society, or culture and society.
The Hague’s International Schools
Fully private schools still need to be officially recognized by the Ministry of Education and are subject to inspections and quality assessments. However, they don’t receive any government funding. Therefore, parents often pay considerable tuition fees if they want to send their children to such a school. For example, the American School of The Hague charges between roughly 14,000 EUR and 22,000 EUR in annual fees for the academic year 2017/18.
Fully private education is fairly rare in the Netherlands, but most international and foreign schools fall into this category. International education is available for children from the age of four and mostly prepares children for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) or International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma.
There are a number of international schools and third-country schools in and around The Hague:
- American School of The Hague
- The British School in the Netherlands (BSN)
- German International School The Hague
- European School of The Hague
- International School of The Hague
- Lighthouse Special Education
- Lycée Français Vincent van Gogh
- Indonesian Embassy School in the Netherlands
- Poolse School Den Haag
- De Haagsche Schoolvereeniging
If you want your teenage kids to attend a Dutch school but are afraid that they will not pick up the language easily, you also have the option to enroll them at a secondary school which offers bilingual education.
There, your children are instructed both in English and Dutch. Subjects like math, biology, economics, or IT are taught in English all throughout the six years of VWO (pre-university) level. The preparations for examinations, however, are usually taught in Dutch, and the exams themselves are taken in Dutch as well.
However, schools may offer an alternative to students with a lower proficiency in Dutch. In some cases, for instance, your children will be able to take the exam for the International Baccalaureate English A2 Certificate, which qualifies them to study at English-speaking universities.
There are quite a few secondary schools in The Hague which offer bilingual education:
- Dalton Den Haag
- Hofstad Lyceum
- Wateringse Veld College
- Sint-Maartenscollege Voorburg
- Rijnlands Lyceum Wassenaar
These schools also offer a variety of international activities and exchange programs. For more information on the schools’ bilingual program, please contact each school individually.
Daycare centers in the Netherlands accept kids between the ages of six weeks and four years, which is the age at which they can start primary education. In general, children can stay for up to ten hours in a daycare center (kinderdagverblijf), and opening hours are usually from 08:00 until 17:30 on work days. There are often long waiting lists for these services, so make sure that you register as early as possible!
Older children aged between two and four frequently attend a play-school (peuterspeelzaal) two or three times a week. Though these schools are supposed to prepare children for primary education, they mostly offer lots of opportunities for your kids to be kids and enjoy creative play.
Due to The Hague’s large international community, there are also various English-speaking daycare facilities and playschools in the city. Please note: These are usually private facilities and may therefore charge higher fees than municipal childcare centers. You can find a list on the Den Haag website.