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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood education and care


4.Early childhood education and care

Last update: 27 November 2023

Childcare and early childhood education (VVE) falls under the authority of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

From the moment a child is six weeks old until the moment it leaves primary school, it can go to childcare. In the Netherlands there are various forms of childcare, all of which have to meet quality requirements. Childcare is a term for various childcare options that do not fall under primary education. There are various forms of childcare facilities in the Netherlands. The main types can be divided into three forms:


  • Daycare for children from 0 - 4 years old.
  • Out-of-school care for 4 - 12 year olds.
  • Childminder services for children aged 0 - 12. 

Education is mandatory for all children from the age of 5 and from the age of 4 all children in the Netherlands have the legal right to education. Most children go to primary school (basisschool) when they are 4 years old. Groups 1 and 2 (ISCED 0) of the primary school are groups for 4- and 5-year-olds in which they are prepared for the education that will take place in group 3 (ISCED 1) of primary school. 

This chapter deals with daycare (0 to 4 years) and early childhood education for children up to 6 years old. It covers the childcare facilities to which the childcare benefit (kinderopvangtoeslag) applies and describes information about early childhood education, called voor- en vroegschoolse educatie (VVE) in Dutch.  VVE is offered at primary schools and childcare centres.

Early childhood education (VVE)

It is important to note that VVE is not a separate, independent form of daycare or school, but a subsidized support measure to prevent or reduce educational disadvantages. VVE is offered in childcare centres and primary schools through special educational programs.  The purpose of early childhood education (VVE) is to reduce or prevent educational disadvantages in children between the ages of two and six. Children learn through play  with the support of  VVE-programs and specifically trained childcare workers or teachers.

Playgroups and childcare organisations provide early childhood education for 2,5 to 4-year-olds. Through play, they learn the skills they need to make a good start at primary school. Overall responsibility rests with the municipal authorities, who also determine which children are eligible. Referral usually takes place via the baby and toddler clinic.

Early childhood education for 4 and 5-year-olds is provided in the first two years of primary school (basisschool). The school itself is responsible for the quality of early childhood education. 

Early childhood education programmes

A variety of early childhood education (VVE) programmes are available, most of which are geared to helping pupils with language disadvantage. They also target the child’s socio-emotional, cognitive and motor development. The most commonly used programmes are Kaleidoscoop, Piramide, en Uk en Puk.

Quality of childcare and early childhood education

To safeguard the quality of early childhood education (VVE), there must be at least two qualified professionals to every group of children. The maximum group size is 16. The Municipal Health Services (GGD) and the Dutch Inspectorate of Education are responsible for monitoring the quality of early childhood education.

The Municipal Health Service (GGD), commissioned by  municipalities, checks whether childcare organizations meet the legal quality requirements. Municipalities must take enforcement action if organizations do not meet the requirements. Each year, the Education Inspectorate examines whether municipalities perform their statutory childcare duties. More information about supervision of childcare and early childhood education can be found in chapter 11.1.

Funding and affordability of childcare and early childhood education

The Dutch government reimburses a substantial portion of the cost of childcare. The childcare benefit is called kinderopvangtoeslag. The amount that parents are entitled to receive is dependent on several factors such as family income, the number of children and the working hours of parents.

For participation in VVE programs, parents of children with a VVE indication are also entitled to a contribution towards costs.

Primary education is funded by the government. Primary education in the Netherlands is free, this also includes the first two years (ISCED 0) of primary school for children aged 4 and 5. The legal right to education starts at age 4 and the compulsory education age is 5.The government pays for education so that all children can go to school regardless of the parents' financial situation.

Childcare reforms

In 2018 and 2019, measures were taken to improve the quality of childcare. On 1 January 2018, the Innovation and Quality of Childcare Act (wet IKK) entered into force and the Harmonization of Childcare and Playgroup Work Act (Wet harmonisatie kinderopvang peuterspeelzaakwerk) came into effect. The reforms improve the quality and accessibility of childcare. 

More information about (the reforms in) childcare can be found at Kinderopvang | (only available in Dutch).