There are numerous schools in Amsterdam for expats to choose from, and they generally offer high standards of education. There are a small number of private schools, but the majority of children attend public schools.
Both public and private schools are regulated by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education to ensure quality across the board.
Public schools in Amsterdam
Public schooling in the Netherlands is free for all children, including expats, until age 16. After the age of 16, parents are expected to pay annual fees.
Language is important for expat families to consider. If a child speaks no Dutch and is at least six years old, some schools run a special newcomer's class in which the focus is on learning the language in order to continue their studies in Dutch.
If the child is 12 years old or older when moving to Amsterdam, they may be placed in an international bridging class, where they study school subjects as well as Dutch. These classes are typically one year long, after which children will usually be integrated into the rest of the school.
Most high school classes are taught in Dutch, but some secondary schools in Amsterdam follow a dual-language curriculum where subjects are taught in English and Dutch.
High school or secondary education in the Netherlands is typically chosen based on aptitude or future aspirations. The education system is arranged into streams offering practical and vocational programmes or academic programmes which prepare students for university.
Private and international schools in Amsterdam
There are various private and international schools in Amsterdam. Most of the city's international schools follow the American or British curriculum, while a number of them (including some local private schools) also offer the International Baccalaureate programme.
As children in Amsterdam may be able to continue the same or similar curriculum as their home country, international schools are often the best option for expats living in the city for the short term.
Parents should note that fees at these schools can be extremely high while space is limited. It's best that parents begin the application process well in advance.
Nurseries in Amsterdam
While education is only compulsory from age five, preschools abound in Amsterdam. Daycare centres, kindergartens and preschools are available, while childcare services, including playgroups, babysitters and au pairs, can also be found.
Toddlers from as young as three months can attend daycare, while kids aged two to four attend preschool. In Amsterdam, the fees for 16 hours a week of preschool may depend on parental income.
Special needs education in Amsterdam
Expat families will find inclusive education is valued in both public and private schools. Newly arrived expat families in Amsterdam are advised to enquire with the local municipality on the best fit. Parents can also find support groups online or through schools and local organisations.
Many schools in Amsterdam offer specialised services to integrate students with disabilities or disorders into mainstream classes.
Additionally, two types of schools cater specifically to special education needs: speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. SBO programmes are similar to mainstream curricula but provide specific support services. Speciaal onderwijs schools are split into distinct clusters, based on the type of care: visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities, and behavioural or social problems.
Homeschooling in Amsterdam
Children must attend school in the Netherlands from ages five to 16. Homeschooling is not legal in the country, other than under specific exceptions. We recommend parents address their concerns about distance learning and homeschooling with the local municipality. Reaching out via social media to the expat community in Amsterdam can also be helpful when looking for resources on homeschooling.
Tutors in Amsterdam
Finding a tutor in Amsterdam should not be too hard. Online platforms make the search easy, while expats can also go through private tutoring companies.
Foreigners, both children and adults, may benefit from the services of a tutor. While English is widely spoken in Amsterdam, expats may be interested in learning Dutch, and a private tutor can help new arrivals overcome any culture shock of language barriers.
►Education and Schools in the Netherlands gives a more detailed view of the Dutch education system
"My son is in high school but they call it college here. He is learning in a 100 percent Dutch environment. It's quite funny when he comes home and he is just talking another language and then doesn't realise he is." Read our interview with Monique for more on an expat's experience moving to Amsterdam as a family and settling into the school system.
"I can't speak for the local Dutch schools since I have no first‐hand experience there. Colleagues and media however, do report falling standards and overcrowding of the once highly regarded Dutch schooling system." Read more in our interview with Edward.
Are you an expat living in Amsterdam?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Amsterdam. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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