What should be considered when choosing a school in the Netherlands?
Educational philosophy: One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a school is the educational philosophy of the school. There are different educational approaches among primary schools in the Netherlands. This is very nice in that it gives your child the chance to choose the most suitable school among alternatives, but sometimes one can get lost in all this information.
In addition, more courses and activities are given in certain areas in schools (art, culture, sports, music, science, etc.). You can also learn about these issues at the schools you visit or examine the website.
Distance: Another important issue is the distance between school and home. Considering that in the Netherlands, you will take your child to primary school in all weather conditions, choosing the school close to your home and of course the most suitable for your child will provide you with great convenience in terms of logistics.
Priority: When applying to schools, there will be priority schools according to their proximity to your home. You can list 8 of these schools on your application form by writing the one you want the most. (scholenopdekaart.nl)
School success: You can have preliminary information about the success of the school by following the average CITO results of the schools and how many students they send to which secondary school / high school system. I also recommend that you look at the school’s inspector reports. (scholenopdekaart.nl)
Foreign language teaching: It would be helpful to ask if a second language has started to be taught in schools > Early Foreign Language education (VVTO).
Extra lessons, extra classes for children in need: Some children may be ahead or behind their peers in school success. It is useful to learn how to support these children in schools.
Educational approaches and school options in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, children between the ages of 4 and 12 go to primary school, from the age of 5 there is an obligation to attend school. For children turning 3 years old, municipalities send documents on school selection, and families are expected to prepare a school preference list within a certain period of time and personally apply to the first school on the list.
There is more than one educational approach among primary schools in the Netherlands. This is very nice as it gives your child the chance to choose the most suitable school, but it is not easy to choose 🙂 Some of the Dutch schools and their approaches are: Public schools, private (paid) international schools (fully/partially in English); ‘Private (bijzonder)’ schools (such as Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Ecumene, Islam) that apply different education systems or provide religious education such as Montessori, Dalton, Waldorf (Steiner), Jenaplan; bilingual schools (Dutch and English), and ‘special’ schools for children with educational difficulties.
In order to choose the school and educational approach that is most suitable for your child, I recommend that you visit the schools (on promotion days or by making an appointment), talk to the administrators, and smell the air of the school. The fact that the school’s educational approach and your child-rearing style are similar, and your intuition and thoughts about the conditions under which your child will be happy and successful will make it easier for you to make a choice.
The most preferred schools and educational approaches are as follows:
Private schools with English as the medium of instruction. There can be long waiting lists, it is useful to register early.
International schools offer a tolerant and international perspective, equipping them with the skills and confidence to transition to schools in other countries.
List of international schools in the Netherlands: https://www.iamexpat.nl/education/primary-secondary-education/international-schools-netherlands
If you intend to stay in the Netherlands for a long time, you want your children to learn Dutch and have Dutch friends, and you want schooling to be (almost) free, you can choose from a wide range of Dutch schools. It will also be advantageous in terms of making playdates and allowing children to adapt to society more easily.
Public schools (Openbaar)
State-run and funded non-religious schools that do not adhere to a particular educational approach but blend different approaches. Many public schools incorporate elements of the Dalton educational approach.
Schools with different educational approach (Bijzonder)
They are governed by their own boards but receive government funds. Although their philosophy is different, their curriculum is the same. (Montessori, Dalton, Waldorf, Jenaplan and religious schools)
Philosophy: “Help me do it on my own”
It supports children’s curiosity and initiative and encourages the development of their natural abilities, especially through practical play.
Montessori schools help students develop at their own pace by learning through activities that include exploration, experimentation, repetition, organization, abstraction, and communication.
Philosophy: “Freedom, responsibility, working together”
Influenced by Montessori, the Dalton approach gives students the freedom to work in a self-directed way at their own pace while being responsible for the result. It also encourages students to teach and learn from each other.
Philosophy: “Mind, heart, hand”
These schools, also called Vrijeschool (free school), have a holistic educational approach that supports personal development at the intellectual, practical, artistic and social level.
Vrijeschool emphasizes creativity and imagination and appeals to the individual development of each child, helping them grow and learn at their own pace.
Philosophy: “Communication, study, play, celebration”
Jenaplan education is characterized by features such as collaboration, independent learning by doing, and shared responsibility. Key activities are usually divided into four areas: discussions, study/teaching, play and celebration.
In these schools, children from the age of 4 are taught 30% to 50% of the day in English. Students speak English in subjects such as history, geography and gymnastics. The second language is not only the language of instruction, but also the language of communication. Both the teachers and the students speak English among themselves.
List of bilingual schools: https://www.nuffic.nl/onderwerpen/tweetalig-onderwijs/tweetalige-basisscholen