Home in Leiden

Croatian, Za vise informacija na hrvatskom jeziku, molimo kontaktirajte Tamaru,

German, Wenn Du weitere Informationen auf Deutsch brauchst, wende Dich bitte an Dorothea,

Danish, For mere information paa Dansk kan De kontakte Heidi.



Czech, Pro více informací v ceském jazyce kontaktujte prosím


French, Pour plus d'informations en français, vous pouvez contacter Claire Caron sur

Polish, Po dodatkowe informacje w jezyku polskim kontakt or

Spanish, Si quieres más información en castellano, no dudes en ponerte en contacto conmigo, Laura

Indian, Please contact Rippy at if you'd like help in Hindi or Punjabi.

Diana Jekina,


About us
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Childrens Health
Learning Dutch
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FAQ: Moving to Leiden


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  1. Introduction
  2. The Dutch Education System
  3. Choosing a School
  4. Where to find information about schools?
  5. When does school start and how does it work?
  6. Arriving in Leiden with (slightly) older children
  7. Ouderbijdrage
  8. Secondary school
  9. Home Schooling
  10. SCHOOLS IN THE LEIDEN AREA, by neighbourhood
  11. Special Needs Education in the Netherlands


The Dutch Education System

Most children in the Netherlands attend a Ministry of Education-funded school . There are also a very small number of non-government funded primary (elementary) and secondary (junior and high) schools. Schools such as the international (British, American, etc.) schools fall under this category. We won't discuss the international schools in this section because there is a lot of information already available in English about those schools. Our aim in this section is to make the school system more accessible and understandable to international parents who are considering sending their children to a Dutch school.

A unique aspect of the Dutch system is the right to found schools that provide teaching based on religious, ideological, or educational beliefs. This means, in practice, that the vast majority of religious schools (such as Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, etc.), as well as schools based on certain educational philosophies like Montessori, are funded by the state and are free other than a parental contribution (see section on the "ouderbijdrage").

This system is a legacy of verzuiling within Dutch society. If you've lived in Holland for a while then some (Dutch) body is bound to have mentioned verzuiling to you - the untranslatable term describing how the different beliefs in the Netherlands have rubbed along together for centuries. You, a Catholic, might have tolerated living in the same street as your Protestant neighbor, for example, but that was where the sharing stopped; you would have read different newspapers, patronized different shops and of course sent your children to different schools. In the twenty-first century the range of primary (and to some extent secondary) schools is the most visible reminder of that centuries-old separation; there are schools here catering for all variations on Christianity and Islam, plus familiar types like Montessori and more esoteric non-religious beliefs like Steiner, Dalton and many more.

The Dutch system divides ordinary schools into openbare - fully public, required by law to take your child (except in some exceptional cases) - and bijzondere -generally entitled to exercise choice in who they take. These schools *can* refuse admittance to pupils whose parents do not subscribe to the beliefs or ideologies of the school. So, for instance, it is possible that an Islamic school could refuse admittance to a child whose parents are not Muslims, and it has happened that some Protestant schools in the Dutch "bible belt" have expelled students whose parents owned a television! However, these cases are exceptional and are very unlikely to occur in the Leiden area. The main difference between the "openbare" and "bijzondere" schools would be in the existence of waiting lists. Some of the more popular "bijzondere" schools in the Leiden area have waiting lists, a few of which seem to require that the child be placed on the list when only a glimmer in his or her parents' eyes, while the "openbare" schools have to take all students, so there are (generally) no waiting lists for these schools.



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