School is compulsory in the Netherlands for children aged between five and 16, and while standards may vary slightly, both public and private schools provide high-quality education in The Hague.
Expat children can attend public schools, provided there are spaces available. Teaching standards are high and schools are efficiently run, albeit with a slightly more casual feel than some expats may be used to. As lessons are mostly taught in Dutch, public school is really only a feasible option for younger expat children who are in a better position to overcome the language barrier. Nevertheless, there are various routes for expat parents to consider.
Public schools in The Hague
Government-funded primary schools (basisschool) are free to all children aged between four and 12. For the first year, attendance is optional and only becomes compulsory on a child’s fifth birthday.
There are three types of public secondary education, and recommendations made by primary school teachers aim to ensure each child is matched with the option that best suits their character. All three types begin with a generic curriculum for the first two years, after which they specialise in different areas. VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) schools offer a practical and vocational programme, while HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) are more academically inclined.
Expat children in The Hague who do not speak Dutch can enter a specialised language programme in secondary school known as internationale schakelklas (ISK). Select secondary schools offer tweetalig onderwijs (bilingual education) in The Hague, where some classes are taught in English. These options aim to better integrate expat children into the Dutch schooling system.
Private and international schools in The Hague
International schools in The Hague take several forms: Dutch international schools, foreign schools and independent international schools.
In Dutch international schools, the language of instruction is often English and a foreign or international curriculum is taught. These schools are partly funded by the state, so, while they have greater flexibility when it comes to curricula and teaching methods, they’re still required to meet the standards set by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. While some tuition is charged, rates are generally affordable thanks to state subsidies.
The Hague also hosts foreign schools, which are usually funded by their country of origin and follow the associated curriculum, for example from France or Germany.
Additionally, there are independent international schools that are privately funded, and accredited by an international education institution. Most of these schools offer the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and A-level curriculum or the International Baccalaureate (IB).
Nurseries in The Hague
Expat parents with young children can explore a number of childcare and education options in The Hague. While early childhood education under the age of five is not compulsory, child support benefits are available to parents working in The Hague, and daycares, preschools and after-school care facilities are all available.
Infants as young as six weeks can attend a daycare centre, most of these are open for 10 hours a day in The Hague, while preschools are designed for children from about two years. Waiting lists tend to be long, so expat parents are advised to explore multiple options in their preferred area or suburb to secure a spot.
After-school care services are also available for children in preschool and primary school.
Special-needs education in The Hague
Special-needs education is a priority in Dutch schools, and both public and international schools offer support to students with disabilities.
Expat children with disabilities, impairments or problems must be evaluated to determine the level of support they need, and it's also recommended for newly arrived expats in the Netherlands to visit a local healthcare professional. Dutch schools must provide services tailored to their students' needs to integrate them into mainstream classrooms. They must also work closely with parents to ensure these needs are met.
In certain cases, specialised schools dedicated to children with specific disabilities and needs may be better suited than mainstream education. In The Hague, these are known as speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. These are further categorised into four distinct clusters based on their specialisation: students with visual impairments; hearing or speech impediments; physical or cognitive disabilities or chronic illnesses; and behavioural or social problems.
Tutors in The Hague
Finding a tutor in The Hague is both common and easily accessible. Extra private classes are helpful to children year-round, not just near exam time, and could also benefit the whole expat family. Adults can hire a tutor for language classes to learn Dutch and better integrate into their workplaces or the environment in general.
The best way to find the right tutor in The Hague is online, through portals such as Apprentus or TeacherOn, but word of mouth and networking can also be useful.
►For information on international schools in the city, see International Schools in The Hague
►Education and Schools in the Netherlands gives an essential overview to the schooling system in the country
"My son is at an international school– it formerly was a department of a dutch school so still is under the education system of the Netherlands, although the programme is based on the Primary Years Programme of the International Bacculaureate (IBO) and taught in English."
Read our interview with British expat Nicola to learn more about expat life in the Netherlands.
Are you an expat living in The Hague?
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