Choosing the right school for your child: International vs. Dutch education in the Netherlands

International versus Dutch education is one of the decisions you must make as an expat family when you start living in the Netherlands. The Netherlands offers a range of schooling options, including international and local schools. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and making an informed choice is crucial for your child’s educational and cultural development.

Part of the decision depends on what your future plans are. Is this a permanent move or a longer contract, or will you move within three years, for example? The next steps and available choices of school system will influence the decision on which educational path to take.

Pros and cons of international schools

Language familiarity
Pros: International schools often offer instruction in English or other commonly spoken languages, providing a smoother transition for expat children.
Cons: Overreliance on the home language can potentially hinder integration into the local culture and language.

Global curriculum
Pros: International schools typically follow globally recognized curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge Curriculum, which can facilitate reintegration into schools in other countries.
Cons: These curricula might not align with the Dutch educational system, making the transition to a local university more challenging.

Diverse community
Pros: International schools often have a diverse student body, exposing children to various cultures and fostering a broader worldview.
Cons: Limited exposure to Dutch culture and language may hinder full integration into the local community.

Expatriate support
Pros: International schools usually offer additional support services to help expat children adjust to a new culture and educational system.
Cons: The support might inadvertently isolate students from broader Dutch society.

Pros: The cost factor should be weighed against the potential benefits in terms of quality of international education, and the offers of sports and extracurricular activities at school, as well as expatriate support.
Cons: International schools are often more expensive compared to local schools, which can be a significant factor for families on a budget.

Pros and cons of local Dutch schools

Language immersion
Pros: Local schools provide an immersive language experience, aiding in faster acquisition of the Dutch language and facilitating integration into the community.
Cons: Initial language barriers may pose challenges, especially for older children, impacting their academic progress.

Dutch curriculum
Pros: Following the Dutch curriculum makes the transition to a local secondary school or university easier.
Cons: The Dutch curriculum doesn’t follow recognized curricula such as IB or AP.

Cultural integration
Pros: Dutch schools offer a more authentic cultural experience, allowing children to integrate fully into Dutch society, make friends and develop a deeper understanding of the local way of life.
Cons: Cultural differences and a new educational system can be overwhelming for some expat children.

Extra support
Pros: Your child could start at a ‘schakelklas’ to master the basics of Dutch and then continue in a regular class.
Cons: Most Dutch schools don’t have a standard program to help children who have Dutch as a second or third language. This means they don’t have the time, personnel or program to support your child.

Pros: Local schools are often less expensive than international schools, which can be a significant factor for families on a budget.
Cons: The cost factor should be weighed against the potential benefits of language acquisition, cultural integration and quality of education.

In conclusion: International or Dutch?
Enrolling your child in an international or local school in the Netherlands hinges on various factors, including language goals, cultural integration, curriculum preferences and budget constraints. Evaluating each option based on your child’s unique needs and circumstances is essential. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right fit for your family.