The Dutch educational system has three levels: primary education, secondary education and higher education. Children with special educational needs who cannot participate in the regular education system receive special education. The information below gives a brief general introduction to the regular system.
There are is a wide variety of schools in the Netherlands. There are general public schools and schools that centre on a religion or (mainly in primary education) a pedagogical movement.
Children begin primary education when they are 4 or 5 years old and stay in primary school for seven or eight years (depending on the age when the child starts primary education). In the last year of their primary education pupils get advice on their secondary education. There are several possibilities depending on the child’s abilities and interests.
One can choose between vocational education and training (VMBO and senior level MBO) and general education. General education is available in different levels: HAVO (5 years) and VWO (6 years).
The HAVO allows the pupils access to the 'hogescholen' – the higher education schools that focus on professional education. The VWO enables the students to directly pursue a university career. Universities offer mainly research-oriented academic programmes.
The universities offer programmes for Bachelor’s degrees (which last three years) and Master’s degrees (one or two years). After a Master’s degree a PhD is possible. The PhD candidate is usually employed by the university.
For more information: http://www.nuffic.nl/en (see the section on the education system) or http://www.government.nl/ministries/ocw (website of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science).