Primary education

Primary education

Children in the Netherlands may begin primary education from the age of 4. Compulsory education begins on the nearest school day after a child turns 5. Primary education spans 8 years, after which children follow secondary education (when they turn 11 or 12). If your child between 6 and 12 years old, they can attend 1 of the 15 Dutch primary schools with a special reception class ('opvangklas').

These specialise in teaching Dutch as a foreign language. Your child will learn to speak, comprehend, read and write Dutch during their time in a reception class. After the reception class, your child can then stay at the same primary school or switch to another primary school. Visit the online resource Scholenwijzer (in Dutch) to find out which Dutch primary schools offer reception classes.

Types of Primary School in the Netherlands

The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science lists 4 different types of primary schools as well as special education:

  • Public schools ('openbare basisscholen'): Schools, open to all children, that do not follow a specific educational or religious view
  • Specialised schools ('scholen voor bijzonder onderwijs'): Schools where children are taught from a religious or philosophical point of view
  • Extended schools ('brede scholen'): Schools that work closely with other organizations to provide better education e.g. in sports or music
  • General specialised schools ('algemeen bijzondere scholen'): Schools that teach according to their vision of education and upbringing (not religious). Examples include Montessori and Dalton Plan schools. Montessori schools teach with the belief that a child should be given possibilities to develop freely and naturally as well as receive personalised education; emphasis is put on children's individuality.

At Dalton Plan schools, students work at their own pace, and receive individual help from the teacher when necessary. There is no formal class instruction. Students draw up time-tables and are responsible for finishing the work on their syllabuses or assignments.

Registering your child at a Dutch Primary School

The procedure to register your child at a Dutch Primary School depends on the birth date of your child. For more information, visit the website of the municipality of The Hague.

Registering your child at a school in Delft, Rijswijk and Leidschendam-Voorburg

In Delft, Rijswijk and Leidschendam-Voorburg you will have to contact the school directly to register your child. In Leidschendam-Voorburg it is possible to pre-register at a primary school as soon as your child is born. This pre-registration will become an official registration once your child becomes 3.

International Primary schools

Many International Schools, whether government funded, Private International, or Foreign International Schools also have primary school sections. For more information about their offering for younger children, and to find out how to apply, simply check the website of the school in question. You can see our information about International Schools here.