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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Other dimensions of internationalisation in early childhood and school education


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.4Other dimensions of internationalisation in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Global and interculteral Dimension in curriculum development


European/international dimension of the school curriculum

The European/international dimension of the school curriculum relates to the knowledge, skills and attitudes that make people able and willing to live and work with foreign individuals and organisations, whether in the Netherlands or abroad. It must not be seen as a separate discipline, but rather as an integral part of education as a whole.

Examples include the focus on foreign languages, for instance early foreign language teaching (VVT) and bilingual primary education (TPO) in primary schools and intensive foreign language teaching (VTO), bilingual education (TTO) and the ELOS (Europe as a Learning Environment in Schools) programme in secondary schools.

Internationalisation of education takes several different forms.

1. Internationalisation of the curriculum:

  • the content: instruction in foreign languages, global orientation, European and international developments and institutions, European and global citizenship, international aspects of a given subject area;
  • the form: internationalisation of both the subjects that pupils take – including early and intensive instruction in foreign languages, bilingual education and content, language integrated learning (CLIL) and ELOS (Europe as a Learning Environment in Schools) – and of learning programmes and examinations, not only for children of internationally mobile knowledge workers and expatriates but also for Dutch pupils (e.g. international schools, International Baccalaureate), structural or one-off collaboration with educational institutions abroad, and student and/or teacher exchanges.

2. International contacts:

  • contacts and exchange of information through the use of ICT;
  • travel to other countries by teachers and pupils.


Internationalisation of the curriculum

Efforts have been made for several years now, and continue to be made, to anchor internationalisation more solidly in Dutch education. The binding statutory frameworks, attainment targets and exit qualifications for both primary and secondary education are structured in such a way that these elements are taught in many forms and at many different times. Besides foreign languages, they include citizenship in a diverse society and global orientation. The subjects history, social studies, geography and economics provide good opportunities to address them.

Attainment targets and exit qualifications are translated into teaching guidelines, usually by the National Institute for Curriculum Development (SLO). Teaching guidelines are not compulsory, but offer schools guidance in organising education and publishers guidance in developing teaching materials. Schools decide themselves – within the framework of the law, the attainment targets and the exit qualifications – what they will teach and what teaching materials they will provide their pupils with. This freedom for schools is in keeping with the philosophy of governance that is applied to education as a whole. Civil society organisations have been and are being involved in every aspect of the process, from attainment targets to teaching materials, from exit qualifications to the way in which pupils absorb what they are being taught.

Primary and secondary education

In primary and secondary education, mobility and internationalisation are reflected in a curriculum that focuses on foreign languages.

Early foreign language teaching (VVTO): teaching of foreign languages (English, German or French) can start earlier than the compulsory English lessons prescribed in the primary school curriculum. Primary schools offering VVTO must have structural provision within their curriculum for subjects or parts of subjects to be taught in the target language to every pupil in the class. Pupils are taught a foreign language (usually English) from an early age (years 1 to 4). In the junior primary classes, the focus is on learning through play. Around 1,000 primary schools offer VVTO.

Intensive foreign language teaching (VTO): secondary schools offer extra tuition in foreign languages in addition to the hours prescribed in the curriculum, or they offer a language that is not included in the standard curriculum. In these extra hours, pupils receive extra tuition to broaden and deepen their knowledge. VTO is thus not intended for extra coaching for weaker pupils. The European Platform supports VTO through, for example, the LinQ programme and the Chinese Language and Culture Network (only in Dutch available). The aim of the LinQ programme is to improve teaching in French and German and make it more attractive. The Chinese Language and Culture Network supports schools in setting a high-quality syllabus for the new subject Chinese language and culture, with specific attention for the school-based part of the school leaving examinations. It also helps schools set up partnerships and exchanges with schools in China.

The extra tuition is provided by a native-speaker teacher or language assistant. Over 70 schools offer intensive foreign language teaching.

Pupils can sit examinations in the following foreign languages:

- English, see Cambridge English

- German, see Goethe Zertificat

- French, see DELF junior

Bilingual education (TTO): around 122 Dutch secondary schools currently offer TTO, teaching subjects such as Geography and Biology in a language other than Dutch.

The European Platform for Internationalisation in Education promotes and coordinates bilingual education in Dutch secondary schools on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The standard term for bilingual education is CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). In schools offering bilingual education, more or less the entire curriculum is taught in a foreign language (usually English), which is also used for general communication in the classroom. In the lower years of HAVO/VWO at least 50% of lessons are taught in the second language, and in the lower years of VMBO at least 30%.

Bilingual education was introduced in the Netherlands in 1989. In 1999 the European Platform and bilingual schools set up a national bilingual education network (

Main features of bilingual education

Some of the main features of TTO are as follows:

  • at least 50% of lessons in the lower years and 25% of lessons in the upper years are taught in English;
  • the teachers have also undergone special TTO training, with a focus on language skills and TTO teaching methods;
  • foreign language teaching should not be at the expense of the Dutch language;
  • the school must offer its pupils international activities.

Pupils attending TTO schools sit the standard Dutch examinations and are awarded a VWO, HAVO or VMBO certificate, accompanied by a certificate attesting to their extra competence. There are various certificates, depending on which part of their course was taught in the foreign language.

The European Platform is responsible for monitoring the quality of TTO schools. Once a school has been offering bilingual education for four years it can apply to the European Platform for certification. The certificate is based on standards for bilingual education developed by the Platform together with the national network of bilingual schools. Once a

In the 2014/2015 school year, 12 schools will be launching a pilot project on bilingual primary education (TPO).

The principles underpinning TPO are as follows:

  • primary schools teach 30% to 50% of the curriculum in English, German or French;
  • lesson content and attainment targets are based on the standard Dutch curriculum;
  • the TPO programme is strongly internationally oriented;
  • the schools participating in the project work together within a close-knit network and share their knowledge and experience.

A bill is currently being drafted giving all primary schools the scope to use English, French or German as the language of instruction for up to 15% of the curriculum.


Partnerships and networks


International programmes


Europe as a Learning Environment in Schools (ELOS)  

ELOS prepares pupils to live, learn and work in an international environment. The programme aims to incorporate internationalisation into the curriculum, making it part of the school’s DNA. Schools participating in the ELOS programme offer many international activities and lessons that have a strong European and international orientation. The schools also focus specifically on teaching two foreign languages to a high level, while international cooperation and exchanges with schools abroad are part of everyday practice.

Pupils acquire European competences, with levels based on the Common Framework for Europe Competence (CFEC) developed within the European ELOS network.

In the Netherlands, the ELOS network comprises 40 schools for VMBO, HAVO and VWO, coordinated by the European Platform. There are another 100 ELOS schools in other European countries. They work closely together with various partner schools that share the same aim: to prepare young people for an international future in the global society.

In addition to the ELOS schools, there are also bilingual schools that devote explicit attention to European and international orientation. Besides additional language instruction, at least one visit abroad (usually an exchange programme) is included in the syllabus. Some primary schools offer intensive foreign language teaching or early foreign language education. The most common foreign language taught at primary school is English, followed by German or French. Foreign language programmes usually start in year 1 (at the age of 4). The European Platform coordinates both ELOS and bilingual education.

There are also International Education (IGO) departments within both primary and secondary schools, and International Baccalaureate certificates are offered. IGO departments provide teaching in English for children who are in the Netherlands temporarily. Schools with an IGO department receive a grant from the government and are supervised by the Education Inspectorate.



Within the Erasmus+ programme, Key Action 2 focuses on small and large-scale international strategic partnerships within the education, training and youth sectors geared to developing, sharing and implementing innovative approaches at organisational, local, regional, national and/or European level.

The aim is:

  • to innovate and to improve the quality of education (e.g. course books, curriculum, IT tools);
  • to strengthen cooperation between actors in the education sector, the government and the business community;
  • to share knowledge and good practices in the field of education;
  • to recognise and validate learning outcomes.

The aim for secondary vocational education is to improve transnational cooperation between providers and the local and regional business community through exchanging good practices and innovative approaches, developing and supplying new training packages, and promoting structured, long-term partnerships between schools for secondary vocational education and their stakeholders.

Target group

Organisations providing training or other associated activities, such as local, regional or national government authorities, validating organisations, chambers of commerce, the business community and non-profit organisations (for the complete list, see the Erasmus+ Programme Guide).


European Schools

European Schools were established for the children of EU civil servants. A number of international organisations and multinationals have also concluded contracts with them, so that their employees’ children are also entitled to enrol. Other children are admitted under certain conditions.

The European schools fall into two categories:

  • original schools, established for the children of EU civil servants. Other children may be admitted if there is room;
  • associated schools, allied to an EU institution, but with too few children of EU civil servants on their rolls to fall within the first category; their admissions policy gives priority to the children of EU civil servants.

Each school has an infants’, junior and secondary department providing education to a level similar to VWO, and leading to a European Baccalaureat. This certificate provides entry to universities and other higher education institutions in every EU member state.



eTwinning (only available in Dutch) is part of the Erasmus+ programme. It is an online community for schools in 32 European schools. Through the eTwinning website, teachers and pupils can work together online with counterparts in other European countries. eTwinning is intended for teachers and pupils in primary, secondary and secondary vocational education.


Through eTwinning, pupils can mail and chat, or work together online on a project. This allows them to gain international experience. Teachers can share materials and methods.



KANS is a two-year programme which was launched in 2012. Funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), it targets schools for primary, secondary and secondary vocational education in the four countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European Platform is responsible for implementing the KANS programme;(only in Dutch available) and monitoring progress with both individual projects and the entire programme.

The programme is geared to partnerships between the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten for the purpose of knowledge-sharing for and by schools, professional development and peer supervision. The partnerships are forged by means of teacher and school leader mobility, i.e. visits by teachers, school leaders and/or advisors from the Netherlands to the other three countries and return visits of teachers and/or school leaders to partner schools in the Netherlands. Where possible, these visits are preceded by a preparatory visit by the Dutch partner to the potential partner in the other country, the aim of which is to produce a high-quality, joint project plan.


German-Dutch cooperation

The aims of policy in this area are to enhance knowledge of Germany and the German language in the Netherlands, and to step up Dutch-German relations, particularly in the areas of education, culture and science. Cooperation in the field of primary, secondary and secondary vocational education is based on the Dutch-German ‘Gemeinsame Erklärung’ (Joint Statement) which contains provisions on the transnational mobility of pupils, students and researchers.

A joint statement was signed with North Rhine-Westphalia in 1999 and with Lower Saxony in 2000. Cooperation between primary and secondary schools and secondary vocational education institutions will be stepped up by means of school twinning schemes, pupil and teacher exchanges, joint school projects, joint training ventures and specialist conferences.