Secondary education in the Netherlands

Secondary education encompasses schools providing pre-university education (VWO), general secondary education (HAVO), pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) and practical training (PRO).

Dutch high school students. Photo @ omroepwest.nl

There are around 700 secondary schools (middelbare scholen) in the Netherlands, both publicly and privately run.

All four types of secondary education are for children aged 12 and over and all begin with a period of basic secondary education. Children are usually tracked in their last year of primary school based on a combination of their standardised test score and the school's recommendation.

In 1999 all HAVO and VWO schools introduced set subject combinations and the 'study house' construction, which commences in the fourth course year and requires students to acquire skills and knowledge in a much more independent capacity. In 1999 pre-vocational education and junior general secondary education schools introduced pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO).

A variety of international secondary schools in The Hague offer secondary education (often following from primary). There are also a number of Dutch secondary schools with a bilingual stream, usually taught in English.

In vocational education, courses of study have been adjusted to better suit the labour market. In light of the ever-growing demand for MBO (vocational secondary education) and HBO (professional university education) graduates, an important government goal for the coming years is to encourage students to move on to higher secondary school levels and prevent dropouts.

More information:

  • Scholenwijzer: Here you can find listings of all the primary and secondary schools in The Hague and region.
  • Schools Helpline: School listings in the Netherlands (some Dutch required) or phone the Schools Helpline on 0800 5010.
  • Secondary education in the Netherlands: Information in English from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Published: 16 April 2012Modified: 15 May 2017