While the range of schools and education styles in Rotterdam isn't as extensive as that in Amsterdam, parents still have a few options to choose from. As is the case throughout the Netherlands, both public and private schooling is of a high quality. In public schools, teaching is in Dutch, while private international schools teach in the language of their country of origin.
Younger children can pick up a new language relatively easily and are best suited to public schools in the Netherlands, while older kids and teenagers are less likely to adapt to full-time schooling in a new language. In this case, an international school or bilingual programme is recommended.
Homeschooling is not a common option for parents in Rotterdam – it is not explicitly recognised by Dutch law, and parents would encounter several hurdles to find exceptions to this. Moreover, given the high quality of education in the city, few families see the need for homeschooling.
Public schools in Rotterdam
Compulsory education in the Netherlands begins at the age of five, but most parents opt to begin their child's schooling at age four, especially as this non-compulsory year is funded by the government. Tuition at Dutch public schools is free for children between the ages of four and 16. However, some schools may ask for an additional parental contribution (ouderbijdrage). Teaching is in Dutch, though, which means that public schools aren't always a viable option for non-Dutch-speaking families or those that aren't staying in the country long term.
Some public schools have international sections offering bilingual education (tweetalig onderwijs) designed for native English speakers. For some families, this is an ideal solution. Though not free, these programmes are subsidised by the government and are considerably cheaper than private international school fees. At present, the tweetalig onderwijs programme is offered by only a few select schools in Rotterdam.
Most children attend a school in the same neighbourhood where they live, which makes getting to school easy but also means schools must be prioritised when looking for accommodation in Rotterdam.
At age 12, children begin secondary school. Rotterdam, like elsewhere in the country, offers three public secondary schooling options: VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs), HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs). All three start with a general curriculum then offer specialised streams. HAVO and VWO are typically academically oriented, preparing students for university, while VMBO takes a practical approach and offers a vocational programme.
International schools in Rotterdam
Private international schools are accredited to offer foreign curricula in the Netherlands. Generally, these schools provide a good standard of education with excellent facilities. However, fees can be high, so if opting to go this route, parents should ensure they can afford it, especially as education subsidies in relocation grants are becoming increasingly rare.
Choices for private international schools are limited, with just a handful of schools in Rotterdam offering international curricula. Because there are so few options for expat parents, demand often outnumbers available seats, so it's best to start the application process as early as possible.
Nurseries in Rotterdam
Expat parents to infants can find a number of childcare facilities and services across all areas and suburbs in Rotterdam. Daycare centres are typically open from 7am to 7pm, and provide food, play activities and care for the youngest infants, while preschools generally take children from ages two to four.
Additionally, expats can easily find after-school centres for children, join informal playgroups or hire babysitters, nannies or au pairs.
Expat parents should find out about the national child benefit allowances to cover costs of raising their children at their local municipality where they register after arriving.
Special needs education in Rotterdam
The level of support to children with disabilities in Rotterdam is high. Many schools provide inclusive classroom settings with additional support staff and facilities dependent on student needs, and various informal support groups can be found in the city.
When looking for the most suitable school in Rotterdam, children may be evaluated and expat parents interviewed to determine their needs, and parents should enquire about this at their local municipality.
Children may be integrated into a mainstream school or settled into a school dedicated to children with special needs, namely speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. These schools are further divided into four specific clusters for children with visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities or chronic illnesses, and behavioural or social problems.
Tutors in Rotterdam
Children and adults alike can benefit from extra tuition in Rotterdam. Tutors an easily be found through specific companies or online portals, and they can provide private classes, online or in-person, in a wide range of subject areas. Expat families will benefit from learning Dutch to overcome any language barriers, and a private tutor is a good way to go about this.
►For a more in-depth overview of the national system, see Education and Schools in the Netherlands
Are you an expat living in Rotterdam?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rotterdam. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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