The Dutch educational system
In the Netherlands, education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. The Netherlands has both public and private institutions. The latter are mostly based on religious or ideological principles.
Primary education is intended for children in the age group of 4 to 12. It is compulsory for children from the age of 5.
At the age of 12, children go to one of the following types of secondary education:
preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo) – 4 years
senior general secondary education (havo) – 5 years
university preparatory education (vwo) – 6 years
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING (VET)
The Dutch term for ‘secondary Vocational Education and Training’ (VET) is ‘middelbaar beroepsonderwijs’, or ‘mbo’ for short. Pre-vocational education and training is known as ‘voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs’ (vmbo for short).
The Dutch mbo sector consists of 70 colleges. There are 3 different types of colleges:
Regionale Opleidingencentra (rocs), like Friesland College, are multidisciplinary colleges. They offer VET in personal/social services, health care, technology, economic, hospitality/tourism and adult education.
Agricultural VET colleges offer vmbo and VET in agriculture and food technology.
Specialised VET colleges offer programmes for a specific branch of industry, such as graphic design, furniture painting and transport.
DURATION AND LEVELS
VET programmes can last from 6 months to 4 years, depending on the level and the requirements. There are four VET levels:
Level 1: entry level (EQF 1)
Level 2: basic vocational training (EQF 2)
Level 3: full professional training (EQF 3)
Level 4: middle-management and specialised training (EQF 4)
THE NETHERLANDS HAS TWO VET LEARNING PATHWAYS:
The school-based pathway (which is referred to as BOL)
The work-based pathway (which is referred to as BBL)
In both pathways, Work Based Learning (WBL) is compulsory and it can only be offered by a recognised training company.
There are two types of higher education, namely research-oriented and profession-oriented education.
Research-oriented education (wetenschappelijk onderwijs, or ‘wo’ for short) is traditionally offered by research universities.
Higher professional education (hoger beroepsonderwijs, or hbo for short) is offered by universities of applied sciences (hogescholen).
The difference between both types is that programmes at universities of applied sciences prepare students for particular professions and tend to be more practically-oriented, while programmes at research universities focus on theoretical aspects of the field of study and prepare students for undertaking independent research.
Both lead to either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. At research universities, students can also pursue a PhD degree.
ADMISSION TO HIGHER EDUCATION
To attend a bachelor’s programme at research universities, students either need to have a VWO secondary school diploma or they first need to complete the first year at a university of applied sciences.
Students who want to attend a bachelor’s programme at a university of applied sciences, need at least a HAVO secondary school diploma.
For more information about VET in the Netherlands: https://www.mboraad.nl/sites/default/files/170410-mbo-raad-vd-english-rgbscherm.pdf