Dutch educational system in Netherlands | Levels of education in Netherlands

The Dutch educational system is different from the system you are used to. There are different levels that educate towards different professions. You will find more information on this page.

The Dutch educational system in divided in 2 ways.
⇒ According to age:
– Elementary school (till the age of 12)
– Secondary school (high school), from the age of 12 to 16, 17 or 18

⇒ Further education after secondary school (high school): according to level: mbo (ROC), hbo (HAN University of Applied Sciences) or university (Radboud University).

Secondary school (High school)

After elementary school, children are able to move on to 4 levels of secondary school. From low level to high level:
⇒ Praktijkonderwijs (Possible till the 18th birthday)
⇒ Vmbo (4 years)
⇒ Havo (5 years)
⇒ Vwo (6 years)

After secondary school: higher education

There are 3 levels within higher education:

Level Mbo Hbo Wo
This means Middelbaar beroepsonderwijs
(secondary vocational education)
Hoger beroepsonderwijs
(higher professional education/ university of applied sciences)
Wetenschappelijk onderwijs
(scientific/ academic education/ university)
School in Nijmegen ROC and Helicon Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN) Radboud University
Pre-education Vmbo, havo or vwo Mbo, havo or vwo first year of hbo (bachelor, propedeuse) or vwo
Duration 1-4 year Usually 4 years Usually 4 years
Diploma mbo-diploma (level 1, 2, 3 or 4) Bachelor degree Bachelor degree after 3 years, then 1 or more years for your Master degree
Content Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4
Average age of most students 16-20 years 17-21 years 18-22 years
Content The aim of the study is practical (hands-on). You will learn mostly how to carry out a profession. You will learn to apply the gained knowledge during your study. You will learn to think in abstract and theoretical ways.
Aim The study is aimed at a profession. You will be trained and educated towards one type of profession. You will be trained towards an occupational group. This could mean a executive or managerial position. When graduated, you will able to carry out a profession, but also focus on doing research, managerial and decision-making positions.
Classes Most of the classes are mandatory
> The classes require less preparation than HBO and University level: materials will be offered during class
There will be plenty of explanation and guidance.
There is a lot of repetition on the contents of the classes; a lot more than HBO level.
You will learn during lectures and workshops. Your classes will be a lot smaller than in university. Tempo is much higher than mbo. You will be required to carry out a lot of assignments. Lectures in university will be given to large groups. An academic study requires discipline. You will have to study on your own. You will be given freedom of choice within the programme.
Will you learn in practice? You will learn a lot during internships/placements. This means you will be learning while carrying out your profession at a company or institution. You will have a lot of counseling/guidance. During several time periods you will be attending an internship/placement. While being at your internship/ placement you will have a lot of responsibility. Internships/placements are just a minor part of your study. The study will end with doing research and writing a thesis. In some cases you will do research commissioned by an organization.
Sample professions Administrative employee, carpenter, nurse, sales employee, traindriver, car mechanic, chef, teaching assistant. Head nurse, manager of a department, communication employee, engineer, head mechanic, car technician, math teacher, english teacher at a secondary school. Doctor, researcher, communications advisor, psychologist, media professional, anthropologist, manager, historian, islamologist, biologist, mathematician.

Admission to hbo and university when you are older than the age of 21

It can be the case that you are older than 21 years and do not have a havo or vwo diploma. It might be possible for you to do an entrance exam which, when passed, provides you with a chance to study hbo or university. This is called a colloquium doctum. This is not an easy test. You have to prepare well for this test.

Always inform with the study of your choice what the admission requirements are. In most cases there will be additional requirements. They might test you on prior knowledge in one or several subjects. Studies in Dutch or English usually have language requirements as well.

More information about study, schools and the educational system

Nuffic has a publication with a detailed description about the educational system.

Dutch educational system in Netherlands | Levels of education in Netherlands
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