School is compulsory in the Netherlands between the ages of five and 16. All schools in the country, including private ones, are overseen by the Ministry of Education so the standards are closely monitored.

Public schools in Utrecht

Expats can attend public schools in the Netherlands. While the teaching style may differ from what expat students are accustomed to, the standards of Dutch public schools are good. However, because the language of instruction is Dutch, public schools in Utrecht are only really a viable option for very young children whose parents plan on settling down in the Netherlands.

For the first year of primary school, attendance is optional and only becomes compulsory on a child’s fifth birthday. Government-funded schools are free to all children aged between four and 16, with subsidised fees being applicable for the last two years of school.

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 and abilities. All of these schools start with a generic curriculum for the first few years and then 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 focused. 

Private and international schools in Utrecht

Private and international schools in the Netherlands have a little more flexibility when it comes to teaching methods and curricula, and therefore expats may find that these are a better option for their children.

That said, there is only one international school in Utrecht and it follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Naturally, it is oversubscribed so expats who want to pursue this option should be sure to apply well ahead of time.  As one would expect fees are high and parents are advised to budget for additional expenses such as the cost of uniforms, textbooks and school excursions.

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