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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice



Last update: 27 November 2023



Vroeg- voorschoolse educatie. The objective of ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) is the prevention, early identification and reduction of language and education deficiencies in young children. Early childhood education is aimed at children between 2,5 to 4 years of age. It is carried out through childcare centers and playgroups. The responsibility lies at the municipal level.


Primary education

Primary education covers mainstream primary education (BAO), special primary education (SBAO) and (secondary) special education ((V)SO). Primary education is intended for all children from approximately age 4 up to and including age 12.


Special schools for primary education (SBAO)

Special schools for primary education (SBAO) is meant for children for whom tests have shown that a special remedial education approach is indicated – such that they should be placed in a special primary school, at least for some time.


Special (secondary) education

Special (secondary) education ((V)SO) comprises two school types: special education (SO) and secondary special education (VSO). Both school types are subdivided into various types of education, based on the handicaps or learning impediments of the pupils.


Secondary education

Secondary education (VO)  encompasses schools providing pre-university education (VWO), general secondary education (HAVO), pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) and elementary vocational training (PRO). HAVO and VWO schools prepare students for subsequent tertiary education programmes.

VMBO comprises four learning pathways: the basic vocational programme (BL), the middle-management vocational programme (KL), the combined programme (GL) and the theoretical programme (TL). These pathways are geared to subsequent MBO programmes. After completing a combined or theoretical programme, students may also transfer to HAVO.



(voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) pre-vocational secondary education



(hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) general secondary education



(voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) pre-university education



(leerwegondersteunend onderwijs) Learning support (formerly IVBO, since 1999/00 including VSO-LOM)



(middelbaar algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) Junior general secondary education


Higher education

Higher education comprises higher professional education (HBO) and university education (WO). These types of education are provided by HBO institutions (hogescholen) and universities respectively.


Higher professional education - HBO

HBO institutions (also known as universities of applied sciences or hogescholen) provide higher professional education. They contribute to the development of those occupations to which their teaching is geared and conduct design and development activities and research related to specific occupations. They provide bachelor’s degree programmes and in some cases master’s degree programmes, and transfer knowledge for the benefit of the community. All higher education institutions are required to pay attention to the personal development of their students and nurture in them a sense of social responsibility. A total of 37 hogescholen currently receive central government funding. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ) is responsible for funding three of these, which provide agricultural and environmental education.


Universities - WO

Research universities focus on academic teaching and research. They train students to become researchers or design engineers, and transfer knowledge for the benefit of the community. Like hogescholen, they pay attention to the personal development of their students and nurture in them a sense of social responsibility.

The national government funds 18 research universities. These include the Open University for distance learning, four theological or humanist universities, three universities of technology, and Wageningen University. The latter is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.


Vocational education (MBO)

MBO comprises school-based vocational training (BOL) and block or day-release programmes (BBL). BOL can be taken either full-time or part-time. Within BBL, the focus is on practical training, which takes up 60 per cent or more of the course. MBO courses can be taken at four different qualification levels:

  • assistant level (level 1)
  • basic vocational training (level 2)
  • professional training (level 3)
  • middle-management or specialist training (level 4).

MBO courses are offered in four sectors:

  • personal and social services and health care
  • engineering and technology
  • business
  • agriculture and the natural environment (funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs).



Full-time vocational training (MBO)



Block or day-release in secondary vocational education (MBO)


Adult education

Adult education comprises adult general secondary education (VAVO) and adult basic education. VAVO is regarded as “second chance education” (VMBO theoretical programme, HAVO and VWO). Adult basic education comprises broad social functioning, life skills and Dutch as a second language (NT2 or DSL). Adult basic education is a first step towards further training and development.


Attainment targets

These specify the standards of knowledge, understanding and skills pupils are required to attain in primary education (please see 5.2 Teaching and Learning in Primary Education) or the lower years of secondary school (please see 6.2 Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education).



Adult general secondary education (VAVO). VAVO is regarded as “second chance education” (VMBO theoretical programme, HAVO and VWO)


The Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) works to create a smart, skilled and creative environment in the Netherlands. Its mission is to ensure that everyone gets a good education and is prepared for responsibility and independence. The Ministry also wants people to enjoy the arts, and aims to create the right conditions for teachers, artists and researchers to do their work.



Dienst uitvoering onderwijs, governmental implementation agency for the education sector (DUO)



Statistics Netherlands (Dutch central bureau of statistics)



Regional Training Centres


Publicly run schools

  • are open to all children regardless of religion or outlook;
  • are generally subject to public law;
  • are governed by the municipal council (or a governing committee) or by a public legal entity or foundation set up by the council;
  • provide education on behalf of the state. See also chapter 2.1 Fundamental Principles and National Policies


Privately run schools

  • can refuse to admit pupils whose parents do not subscribe to the belief or ideology on which the school’s teaching is based;
  • are subject to private law and are state-funded although not set up by the state; 
  • are governed by the board of the association or foundation that set them up;
  • base their teaching on religious or ideological beliefs and include Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindustani and Steiner-Waldorf schools; See also chapter 2.1 Fundamental Principles and National Policies


Education 2032

In February 2015, the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science appointed an advisory commission, Platform Onderwijs2032, which was instructed to conduct a thorough public consultation examining the form and content of primary and secondary education in the Netherlands. The objective was to identify the knowledge and skills that young people must acquire if they are to function effectively in a rapidly changing society. The Platform invited teachers, students, school administrators, parents, civil society organizations, and representatives of the private and cultural sectors to take part in a number of discussion meetings. In producing this advisory report, the Platform has also drawn upon the latest insights in educational science and best practice examples from home and abroad. For more recent information please  visit:


Vocational Secondary Education Qualification files

Qualification files constitute the vocational qualification structure (BKS). These  files are learner-based, specifying the competences, knowledge and skills the junior practitioner must possess in order to be qualified for the occupation in question. The examination tests whether the candidate can carry out occupational tasks appropriately and whether they have the competences and underpinning knowledge necessary for the job.