Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main types of provision


8.Adult education and training

8.4Main types of provision

Last update: 27 November 2023


Main types of provision


Adult education caters for people aged 18 and over who wish to obtain a full or partial qualification in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO, theoretical programme), senior general secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO). Under certain conditions, 16 and 17-year-olds may also obtain VAVO qualifications.

2. Dutch as a second language (Nt2)

Courses B1 and B2 n Dutch as a second language (Nt2) train students for the state examination in this subject. This examination is for people whose first language is not Dutch. The purpose of the examination is to show that their proficiency in Dutch is good enough to work or study in the Netherlands. The courses are taught at regional training centers (ROCs) and other educational institutions. All the examinations are held by the Education Executive Agency (DUO) on behalf of the Examination and Testing Board (CvTE).

3. Dutch and arithmetic

The aim of courses in Dutch and arithmetic is to boost literacy and numeracy skills. The classes are held at regional training centres (ROCs),at other educational institutions, or at places for non-formal education (including for instance libraries, language hubs and community centers).

4. Digital skills

The aim of courses in digital skills is to boost basic digital skills. The classes are mostly held at places for non-formal education (including for instance libraries, language hubs and community centres).

Provision to Raise Achievement in Basic Skills


Courses B1 and B2 in Dutch as a second language (Nt2)

Organisation and development

The Nt2 examination has been organised by the government since 1992 and is the responsibility of the Minister of Education, Culture & Science. The Examination and Testing Board (CvTE) is responsible for designing the content, and developing and organising the state examinations in Dutch as a second language.

The examination assignments are produced by the Cito bv and Bureau ICE, both  educational testing organisations. Cito bv is responsible for the listening and speaking tests, while Bureau ICE is responsible for reading and writing. Both organisations also train examiners for the speaking and writing tests and facilitates the assessment and processing of results for this component. The listening and reading components are assessed automatically via the computer. The result processing is also monitored by Cito bv and Bureau ICE..

Both organisations conduct also studies to monitor the quality of the state examinations in Dutch as a second language. Under the responsibility of the CvTE DUO arranges the registration of the examinations and the taking of the examinations  at several locations throughout the country.

Programmes I and II

There are two study programmes for Dutch as a second language. Programme I is intended for people who want to enter vocational training (mbo) or for those who want to apply for a professional career in the Dutch labour market at vocational level. – equivalent to B1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for modern languages.

Programme II is intended for people who want to work or study at secondary vocational (mbo 4), higher vocational, professional or university level – equivalent to B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference.

The examination consists of four tests: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Click here for more information about the four tests. All the tests are done on the computer. For the reading test, the candidate has to read texts from a booklet and answer questions on the computer.

Sample examinations and practice material: content

Sample state examinations for Programmes I and II are available online. They give a complete overview of the content, format and level of difficulty of the examinations. Each sample exam contains a full set of tests, with assignments like those in the real examination. The assessment protocol gives information about the conditions under which the examinations are conducted, the assessment models and the pass level.

Students can practise independently at home with the sample examinations and check their answers using the key. The sample material can also be used for classroom practice by examination candidates. The teacher will check the results but in class, students can assess each other using the protocols. Click here for the sample examinations (only in Dutch available).

About five weeks after the examination, the candidate is sent the result, which is comprises a score, with a corresponding  ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. The candidate receives a certificate for every test that they have passed. If they pass all four tests in one go, they are eligible for the Nt2 diploma. If they fail any of the tests, they must resit them. Candidates who have passed all four tests can send their individual test certificates to DUO and exchange them for an Nt2 diploma.

As of January 1st 2021, this procedure has changed. The certificates are included in the Diploma Register and with four certificates obtained, the candidate will receive a diploma by post. The certificate can only be requested from DUO upon explicit request.

Nt2 admission requirements

In principle, the Nt2 state examinations are for speakers of other languages aged 17 and over who want to show that their command of Dutch is sufficient for study or work purposes. On the day of the examination, candidates must bring along a valid original identity document, such as a passport, residence permit or municipal identity card.

There is no compulsory preparation for the Nt2 state examinations (I and II). Candidates may follow a language or exam training course if they wish, but they may also study independently at home before taking the examination.

Comparison of Nt2 state examinations with other benchmark levels

The content and level of Programmes I and II for the Nt2 state examinations were compared with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and the Frame of Reference for Literacy and Numeracy by the Meijerink Commission. Its research revealed that CEFR levels B1 and B2 and the levels of Programmes I and II for the Nt2 state examinations equate to levels 2F and 3F of the Dutch government’s Frame of Reference for Literacy and Numeracy.

In the Netherlands, the Nt2 Framework is also used as a benchmark. The difference is that the Nt2 test is intended for non-native speakers of the Dutch language, while the examinations at 2F and 3F level are for native speakers of Dutch.

Information and advice

Information about the Nt2 state examinations is published jointly by the Steunpunt Nt2 support office  (part of ITTA).

The Steunpunt Nt2 also conducts presentations about the Staatsexamens Nt2.

Nt2 examinations support office: tel. +31 (0)20 525 3844

Nt2 state examination fees
The fees for three Nt2 state examinations are €45 per test. The examination fees for the four tests (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) amount to €180. This applies to both Programma I and II. The fees will normally be paid by the individual candidate but in principle they may also be paid by the school or training institute, the municipal social services or a refugee organisation.

Dutch literacy and numeracy courses

Courses in Dutch and arithmetic train candidates to levels 1F or 2F. Municipalities are responsible for providing training. The classes are held at a regional training centre (ROC), at other educational institutions, or at places for non-formal education (including for instance libraries, language hubs and community centres). The program might lead to a qualification, but does not have to.
Standards and attainment objectives
On 1 January 2013 standards and attainment objectives were introduced by law for courses in Dutch language and arithmetic for the adult education sector.
In August 2010 the Benchmark Levels for Literacy and Numeracy for the learning trajectory from primary up to and including secondary vocational education were enshrined in law: the Benchmark Levels for Literacy and Numeracy Act, and the affiliated examination decree for secondary vocational education, for the adult vocational education sector. The Act describes what learners must know in the subjects Dutch language and arithmetic at various stages in their school career. Thus, the benchmark framework serves as a guideline for schools, teachers and education programmes in primary education, secondary education, special education and secondary vocational education, and forms the basis for continuous learning trajectories in Dutch language and arithmetic.

The benchmark levels were introduced to improve learners' literacy and numeracy skills. Collectively, the reference levels make up the Benchmark Framework for Literacy and Numeracy (only in Dutch available), which is the educational basis for literacy and numeracy teaching in the Netherlands.

To extend these statutory benchmark levels to adult education, and as part of the 2012-2015 Functional Illiteracy Action Plan, levels 1F and 2F were officially adopted for adult education literacy courses and as the base-level for attainment targets in vocational education.The standards and attainment targets make it possible to map an adult learner's level in Dutch, numeracy and digital skills. The foundations for the standards and attainment objectives were laid by the Benchmark Frame for Literacy and Numeracy (Meijerink 2010). This is the statutory standard for literacy and numeracy education in the Netherlands. The standards and attainment targets also equate to the levels in the Dutch Qualification Framework.

The standards described in the official protocols lay the basis for the attainment targets. They describe the level of individual language or arithmetic tasks. Attainment targets indicate what are learner is supposed to know at the end of a course of study.

In practice, the standards and the attainment targets are virtually identical. This is because the Benchmark Frame for Literacy and Numeracy describes the level in terms of functional language and arithmetical tasks, and because the exit level of the adult education courses is level 1F or 2F. For example, for 1F Writing, the standard is described as follows: ‘[the learner] can write a letter, a card, an e-mail and a message on internet to ask for and give information, express thanks, express congratulations, express condolences, and send an invitation’. This description identifies concrete and functional writing tasks. In effect, it expresses what the learner needs to know by the end of the literacy course in Dutch.

On 2017, standards and attainment objectives were introduced by law for courses in basic digital skills for the adult education sector.

Who pays for adult education courses?

The fees for basic skills classes are usually covered by the municipalities. For other types of adult education, courses are normally paid by the participants themselves. The exact amount depends on the type of course and on the participant's personal situation. No age limit exists for publicly funded VET. In some cases it is possible to obtain a grant towards study costs or to deduct them from income tax.

Sometimes, a municipality will cover all or part of the course fees, for example if the participant needs a certificate in order to get a job, and is already long-term unemployed. In other cases, the fees may be paid by an employer, for example if being able to write in Dutch  enables the participant to perform better in their job.

Provision to Achieve a Recognised Qualification during Adulthood

Adult general secondary education (VAVO) caters for secondary school pupils who have failed their exams, and for adults who wish to obtain a secondary education qualification. In certain cases 16 and 17-year-olds, who are unable to cope in mainstream education, may also be eligible to participate in VAVO education. . In principle, VAVO is open to all adults who wish to further their own development.

Some schools offer part-time day or evening courses, so that students can combine their learning timetable with work or other obligations. There are also intensive courses available, such as a one-year HAVO programme which would normally take two years.

VAVO admission requirements

In principle, adult general secondary education caters for people aged 18 and over and living in the Netherlands, who want to obtain a secondary-education qualification. Under certain conditions, 16 and 17-year-olds may also be eligible for VAVO courses.

VAVO for 16 and 17-year-olds

Under certain circumstances, secondary schools are allowed to detach 16 and 17-year-old pupils to a VAVO instition. A school will first consult the pupil to see whether this is the best option. These tend to be young people who for a variety of reasons have difficulty coping with mainstream secondary education. To prevent the pupil leaving without any qualifications at all, VAVO offers an alternative learning route.

The pupil remains enrolled at their secondary school but attends classes with an adult education provider. The secondary school remains responsible for the pupil. Adult education admission for 16 and 17-year-olds is regulated in the ministerial order on cooperation in secondary education and adult education. More information about detachment to VAVO can be found in the regulation cooperation VO- MBO (in Dutch only).

Funding of VAVO

More information and details about funding can be found in chapter 3.3

Provision Targeting the Transition to the Labour Market

Promoting mobility between economic sectors

When people change jobs they tend to stay in the same economic sector or opt for a new job that is similar to their current one. Inter-sectoral mobility in the Netherlands is low in comparison to other countries. For example, there are twice as many job changes between sectors in the United States as in the Netherlands, and three times as many in the United Kingdom. Although job changes are not an end in themselves, they can help to improve the functioning of the labour market, especially in periods of potential or actual unemployment. So it is desirable for people to be able to change jobs or sectors as easily as possible, even if this requires retraining or in-service training.

The Work and Security Act creates a fairer and more proactive social security system, in which investment in employability yields greater returns. In response to a parliamentary motion by MPs Weyenberg and Hamer, an amendment to this law was introduced. Employers now have a statutory obligation to provide any training necessary to enable an employee to perform satisfactorily in their job and – as far as this can reasonably be expected of the employer – in order to continue the employment contract, even if the employee's job ceases to exist or their performance falls below par.

In addition, the introduction of a transition allowance is an excellent way of equipping the employer to prevent unemployment and of allowing the unemployed to invest in training geared to a different kind of work, while they are still unemployed. After all, by investing in training during unemployment, an unemployed person boosts their chances of finding a job. The government therefore believes that transition allowances should be spent on activities geared to promoting job opportunities, even for alternative occupations and sectors, if labour market developments make this necessary.

Furthermore, under certain conditions, an investment by an employer in making an employee more broadly employable before their contract is terminated can be deducted from the financial entitlement to a transition allowance. Furthermore, under certain conditions, it will also be possible for money invested by the employer in making the employee more employable before their contract is terminated. This encourages employers to invest in making their staff more broadly employable while they are still in work. To prevent any obstacles to potential vocational training placements, the law also stipulates that chain supply regulations do not apply to employment agreements made in connection with block or day release courses (BBL) for students in pre-vocational training. Sector plans are also investing substantially in retraining employed people or training them to a higher level within their current job situation. This means providing in-house or external training to teach general workplace skills for a specific occupation. However, government cofinancing does not cover company-specific training courses.

The first tranche of sector plans already approved by the government includes:

• 63,000 retraining and in-service training courses

• over 7,000 ‘career checks’ (including assessment and advice)

• over 1,200 certificates for non-formally acquired competences (EVCs)

• 450 courses aimed at training older people and making younger people more employable.

As part of the drive to initiate transitions on the labour market, the government is introducing the following measures:

The third tranche of the sector plans will focus on promoting transitions from work to work and from unemployment to work. This will also create opportunities for jobseekers who are not receiving unemployment benefit. Sectors that invest in retraining or in-service training for new staff may be eligible for government co-financing. The details of the scheme for co-financing sector plans still has to be fleshed out in detail in consultation with social partners. To give an extra boost to work-to-work transitions, the government is introducing new bridging unemployment insurance legislation within the sector plans. This extra support will cut costs for employers seeking to recruit staff from a different occupational field or sector. The new bridging legislation will make it easier to change jobs and will entail substantial retraining. In coordination with the third tranche of sector plans, the bridging legislation offers prospects of a job in another sector or another occupational field for people who are currently unemployed. It also helps employers to fill difficult vacancies, for instance in the engineering and technology sector. Ultimately, they will be contributing to a better functioning labour market.

Training incentives for people in work

The current situation on the labour market means that people need to devote greater attention to upgrading their knowledge and skills during their career. With this in mind the government is introducing the following measure to encourage adults to obtain additional educational qualifications while they are still in work:

Lifelong learning credit scheme

The introduction of the lifelong learning credit scheme, as outlined in the government’s recent agreement, enables new categories of students who are no longer entitled to student finance to take out loans to finance their tuition fees (for higher education) or school fees (for secondary vocational education). This removes the financial barrier for students who are no longer eligible for student finance, including tuition fee loans, but are keen to learn in order to transition to a different economic sector or obtain a higher educational qualification. It also enables the unemployed, such as women returning to work after having children, to invest in themselves. The introduction of the lifelong learning credit scheme comes in response to the Rinnoy Kan Commission’s proposal to make tuition fee loans accessible to part-time students. The lifelong learning credit scheme will be introduced in the 2017/2018 academic year.

This information is elaborated in the government’s letter to parliament on lifelong learning (only in Dutch available).

Provision of Liberal (Popular) Adult Education

A Volksuniversiteit (litt. folk university) is an institute for non-formal adult education. The course programmes are open for everyone, regardless of previous training, age or background. The courses are taken in groups with other students in an informal atmosphere, which makes learning easier and more pleasant. Courses in a Volksuniversiteit are not specially geared towards obtaining diplomas or degrees. The main purpose is to spend your free time in a useful way.

The Volksuniversiteiten offer a wide variety of courses given by expert teachers. There are over 60 Volksuniversiteiten, some of which are member of the BNVU (= Dutch Association of Volksuniversiteiten).

All members are independent foundations with a ‘not for profit’ policy.

Quite a few Dutch local governments have acknowledged the importance of the Volksuniversiteit in their local cultural scene and have granted financial or material aid. Not all local governments have opted for such a policy. As a result, prices between the various Volksuniversiteiten may differ.

Other Types of Publicly Subsidised Provision for Adult Learners

To make it more attractive for adults to continue learning throughout their career, it is vital to create a better match between the educational requirements of the individual and the demands of the labour market. Long courses do not appeal to working people, particularly if some of the time is devoted to teaching knowledge and skills that they already have.

There is a need for tailor-made courses that reflect the reality and requirements of the workplace and facilitate online learning. People also want phased learning in the form of study modules. This enables them to combine their study activities more effectively with the peaks and dips in their work and private lives, and to obtain a qualification by accumulating module credits.

Greater flexibility in part-time higher education

The government is creating scope for public and private higher education institutions to make their part-time courses more flexible. The focus will be on what people need to know and are capable of learning, on educational content, and on the level of knowledge and skills they want to reach.

This will make it possible to introduce greater variety into learning pathways, while ensuring that learning outcomes meet all the requirements. For example, learning pathways can be tailored to the knowledge and skills the working person has already acquired, learning activities can be adapted to workplace opportunities and employers’ requirements, and online learning can be used to full advantage.