Pre-School and Primary Education

The early years in the Dutch education system...

There is no formal pre-school system in the Netherlands as most Dutch families take up the option of enrolling their child in school from 4 years old, even though school is not compulsory until the child turns five. 

Children younger than 4 can attend one of the many private and local-authority playgroups and crèches available. These come under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

Children do not begin school on the first day of the year in which they turn five. Instead, 'rolling enrolment' means that a new child will join a class at any time in the 30 days following their fifth birthday

Primary Education

Primary school (basisonderwijs) lasts for eight years for children aged four (compulsory from five) to twelve. Those children who haven't already started school must begin from the first school day of the month following their fifth birthday.

Primary education includes those children with learning and behavioural difficulties.

Pupils attending state schools will go to a school in the catchment area set by the local authority. Parents wishing to send their children to private school have the option to do so.

Although tuition is free (all primary schools are government funded via taxation), parents are asked to pay an amount to cover books, teaching materials and "extras". This amount will vary from school to school. Financial assistance is available for pupils under eighteen in full-time primary or secondary education dependant on parental income.

Compulsory subjects include Dutch, mathematics, art, music, geography, history, science and nature. English is taught as a compulsory subject for the top two groups at primary school.

In many primary schools children traditionally go home for the 90 minute lunch period although this practice is fading away in an increasing number of schools. For those schools that continue to send children home for lunch parents have the option of paying for lunch-time care on school grounds.

At the end of the primary school period pupils are given a report summarising their level of achievement and potential. Advice is also given on further studies. Many pupils will take the national tests (known as the Cito tests) as these can help to indicate which type of secondary education would be best suited to their abilities. The test is not compulsory but the vast majority of schools administer it.