International versus Dutch education is one of the decisions you have to make as an expat family when living in the Netherlands. The Netherlands offers several education options, including international and local schools. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and making an informed choice is crucial for your child’s educational, social and cultural development.
Part of the decision depends on your future plans. Is this a permanent move or a longer contract, or will you move again within three years, for example? The next step in your international life and the next possible school system will influence the decision which educational path to choose.
Pros and cons of international schools
Familiarity with the language
- Advantages: International schools often offer classes in English or other commonly spoken languages, making the transition smoother for expat children.
- Disadvantages: Too much reliance on the home language can hinder integration into the local culture and language.
- Advantages: International schools usually follow globally recognized curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge Curriculum, which can facilitate reintegration into schools in other countries.
- Disadvantages: These curricula may not align with the Dutch education system, making the transition to a local university more challenging.
- Advantages: International schools often have a diverse student body, exposing children to different cultures and giving them a broader worldview.
- Disadvantages: Limited exposure to Dutch culture and language can hinder full integration into the local community.
- Advantages: International schools usually offer additional support services to help expat children adjust to a new culture and educational system.
- Disadvantages: Support can unintentionally isolate students from the broader Dutch society.
- Advantages: The cost factor must be weighed against the potential benefits in terms of quality international education, sports and additional curriculum opportunities at school, expat support.
- Disadvantages: International schools are often more expensive than local schools, which can be an important factor for families with limited budgets.
Pros and cons of local Dutch schools
- Advantages: Local schools offer an immersive language experience, which helps accelerate Dutch language acquisition and facilitates integration into the community.
- Disadvantages: Initial language barriers can be challenging, especially for older children, which can affect their academic progress.
- Advantages: Following this curriculum makes transferring to a local university easier.
- Disadvantages: The Dutch curriculum does not follow recognized curricula such as IB or AP.
- Advantages: Dutch schools offer a more authentic cultural experience, allowing children to fully integrate into Dutch society, make friends and develop a deeper understanding of the local way of life.
- Disadvantages: Cultural differences and a new education system can be overwhelming for some expat children.
- Pros: your child can start in a transition class to master the basics of Dutch and then continue in the regular classroom.
- Cons: Usually, Dutch schools do not have a standard program to help children with Dutch as a second language. This means they don’t have the time, staff or program to support your child.
- Advantages: Local schools are often cheaper than international schools, which can be an important factor for families on a budget.
- Disadvantages: The cost factor must be weighed against the potential benefits of language, cultural integration and quality of education.
This link allows you to search for Dutch schools by city or region. You can easily find and compare schools here. You can see how it works in the animation on the website. For example, do you want to know what the school does for good education? Then read the school’s profile.
International versus Dutch education: research among expats
A survey among the international community regarding education in the Netherlands
In the 2018 survey titled “The Accessibility of the Dutch Education System for Internationals,” published by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the following two notable findings emerged:
1.Striking differences between primary and secondary education were observed. Within primary education, 41% of internationals chose Dutch education, while in secondary education this percentage was only 10%.
2. Interestingly, although 38% of internationals showed interest in the Dutch education system, they ultimately chose international education.
What are the reasons for this?
Especially in secondary education, opportunities for non-Dutch-speaking students are limited. Internationals rarely have access to language classes and ISK (Internationale Schakelklas).
Schools show reluctance to offer students with language deficiencies a suitable place within the regular curriculum because of the extra burden on teachers and the prevailing teacher shortage.
Examination requirements in Dutch pose significant challenges for students with a different mother tongue. Expats express concerns about whether their children can obtain a Dutch diploma based on knowledge and skills within the current system, or whether the diploma depends primarily on mastery of the Dutch language. This also applies to bilingual education, where almost all subjects are examined in Dutch.
International or Dutch education?
Enrolling your child in an international or local school in the Netherlands depends on several factors, such as language goals, cultural integration, curriculum preferences and budgetary constraints. It is essential to evaluate each option based on your child’s unique needs and circumstances.
Ultimately, it’s about making the right choice for your family. If you are looking for a professional and experience expert to discuss this, please feel free to contact us and we will schedule a consultation.