The Dutch School System

Each year I, being a Dutch student, stumble upon school-related questions which results in endless explanations of the system. This constant repeating gets boring after a while so I decode to turn it into a node. This just holds the basics of the system.

As a little 4 year old kid you go to primary school. Primary school is one and the same for everyone.

There are special primary schools for kids who need special attention but right now I’m just explaining about the most common type of primary school.

Primary school has 8 classes. The first 2 are a bit like kindergarten, the kids just play, sing, draw and play games supervised by a teacher.

In group 3, at age 6, they start with learning how to write and calculate and stuff.

Group 4,5,6,7 and eight continue with teaching the kids the basics.

Group eight is the last class of primary, Most children are 12 years old here. In this class all the children get the CITO test, an IQ test used to determine the next step in their education.

The CITO test is taken throughout The Netherlands on the same time and takes a few hours a day over the course of a few days.

The CITO test doesn't say one MUST attend a certain school it is merely an indication and helpful in making the right choice.

Depending on the score of the CITO test the child then gets advised regarding the next step in their schooling: secondary school.

From lowest to highest, only counting the non-specialized schools: VBO, MAVO, HAVO, Atheneum, Gymnasium. VBO and MAVO are often used in one and the same word: VMBO. Atheneum and Gymnasium are called VWO.

VBO = Voorbereidend Beroeps Onderwijs (preparing job education) This is the lowest level, it takes 4 years.

MAVO = Middelbaar Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs (moderate common secondary education) This is a little bit higher level then VBO, it too takes 4 years)

HAVO = Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs (higher common secondary education) This one is too harder then MAVO and VBO and takes 5 years.

VWO= Voortgezet Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs (Scientific Secondary Education)VWO is the hardest, it takes 6 years and here you can also take Latin and or Greek, which the lower schools don't have.

Its not hard to follow that after secondary school, the levels stay split. A diploma MAVO or VBO can get you to MBO. A HAVO diploma to HBO and a VWO to University.

MBO stands for Middelbaar Beroeps onderwijs which can be roughly translated to Average Job Education . MBO has sublevels. You can get an assistant’s diploma in half a year to one year. You can get basic diploma in 3 years and a specialized one in 4 years. If one successfully finishes the 4 year education here one can also go to HBO even if one doesn’t have a HAVO diploma. Some schools offer accelerated schooling for the specialized diploma for people who have the HAVO diploma. In this way these people can get the diploma in only 2 or 3 years.

HBO (Hoger Beroepsonderwijs/Higher Job Education) is what one does after HAVO or completed 4 year MBO. It too takes 4 years. And is basically the same story as for MBO but then a higher level. If someone did MBO successfully he or she may often skip the first year of HBO. If one has a HBO diploma one can go to university even if one has no VWO diploma. The HBO level is similar to college, its just below the real university.

University is 6 years although its currently changing to be a copy of the bachelor/master degree system. This is mainly to make a Dutch university diploma more useful, as in more easily recognized, internationally.

(All the Dutch words were translated freely by me, based on my English wich may not be perfect. Suggestions for improvement are more then welcome.)

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