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Time for High School: Mom in the Land of Tulips has All the Answers!

classroom, school, education

During one of Delft Mama meetings, lots of moms showed interest in the topic of high school enrollment in the Netherlands. My first association was a blog “Mama u zemlji lala” (Mom in the land of tulips) where I just read extensive essay about this topic. Aleksandra Pavlovic is the founder of the blog, and she used to be a member of Delft Mama as well! Aleksandra was delightful to share with us her essay and her experience with high schools’ enrollment.

Q: Hi Aleksandra, tell us something about yourself?

A: Hi Delft Mama, I am mother of three and Graduate Professor of Literature. I am residing in beautiful landscape between Delft historical buildings and greenhouses with orchids. Originally, I am from Serbia. My blog covers topics for Serbian as well other expats and their immersion in Dutch life and culture.

Aleksandra (third from right) organized Women’s Fest on the canal in Amsterdam, March 2023

 Q: Would you share your experience with high school enrollment?

A: Since I have three children, and seeing schools is recommended from group 7, we have been visiting high schools during Open House for years. At the beginning, I thought – we live in a small town and in all three cases we were interested in the gymnasium – what is there to investigate. However, there is also a way. The schools are extremely different in terms of the educational system, the profiles they offer, not to mention the personnel. We also considered the peculiarities of each child individually. One is a geek, the other is a free spirit, and the third is a creative person. Everyone has chosen a school at their own discretion and must face their own choices. But now that we’ve got a handle on high school, the choice of studies is just around the corner, haha.

Q: As past Delft MaMa, do you have some message for them?

A: It is my pleasure to invite you to the cultural center CulturA & Zo in Footdrop, where I work as the coordinator of the Oostland Library. It is a wonderful place where a library, cafe, theater, and music school are under the same roof. There are also many performances and activities for children. Sometimes I also work in the library in Pijnacker, where you are also welcome. Delft Mama meant a lot to me when I was new in the city. So, it would be a pleasure if I could now help some new Delft moms with my experience.

I would like personally to give gratitude to Aleksandra for sharing with us her Dutch experience and “borrowing” us her essay! 😊In the text below you can find detailed guide for high school enrollment in the Netherlands wrote by our dear Aleksandra. Also, on her blog you can find more articles about high school, from psychological support for kids and helpful guides for parents as well! Furthermore, you can find a dozen interesting articles in her blog, wrote by her and other contributors covering subjects as education, cultural events, important information’s for expats. Enjoy!

Dutch high school system
Ready for school! (Source: Gezonde School)

High school enrollment in the Netherlands

The Dutch secondary school system is particularly challenging for foreigners as there is a wide variety of levels and courses. That is why it is crucial to start choosing a school on time, preferably already in the seventh grade.

In the Netherlands, children enter secondary school very early, already at the age of 11-12.

Enrollment criteria

Already in the middle of the seventh grade (age 10-11), Dutch elementary students receive preliminary advice for entering secondary school. A year later, they will receive an enveloped official decision from their primary school, based on which they will be able to enroll in secondary school.

The decision on the level of professional education is made by the mentor and the teacher’s council from the elementary school. The primary school bases its advice on test results, social-emotional development, attitude towards work, motivation and behavior during schooling. The opinion of the student himself, as well as his parents, is considered (very seriously).

How to choose a secondary school

Several factors to keep in mind when choosing a secondary school:

  • Location – it would be best if the child could go to school by bicycle on his own. With that, he would be independent and like his peers.
  • Educational system – each school is different in its own way. You can choose between classical, Montessori, Dalton and many other pedagogical approaches.
  • Society – it is crucially important what kind of society our high school student will develop in.
  • Recommendation from a primary school teacher – ask the primary school which specific school they would recommend for your child and knows your child’s abilities and interests.
  • Choice of profile – halfway through schooling, students choose a profile (orientation).
  • The size of the building and the atmosphere in it – during the Open Door Additional content – some schools teach advanced methods for their languages (Cambridge English, Goethe Institute, DELF France), or music, drama, sports, etc.

School visits

In late January and early February, all high schools open their doors to seventh and eighth grade students and their parents. Visitors can attend various distinguished classes, workshops and masterclasses.

Vocational degrees

Secondary education or higher education 9 (voortgezet onderwijs) lasts from 4 to 6 years. It consists of lower and upper grades (onder- and bovenbouw). Lower grades consist of basic subjects, and in higher grades, students are guided by choosing a specific package of subjects.

The guide to high schools and the map of high schools provide a practical comparative overview of local schools and their offerings.

Talent schools

There are art schools, technical schools, music and dance as well as special schools for talents, like sports. Check them out at Talent schools.

Options for high schools in the Netherlands (Source: EVOT)

Draw and lottery

Each school has a limited number of places for enrollment. So, it may happen that there are no places for all interested children. That is why, as with us, a wish list is made, and applications are made to several schools.

A flexible system

The choice is very wide and there are many possibilities. Thanks to the flexible system, various combinations and upgrades are possible, as shown in this diagram:

Dutch high school system with possible combinations and upgrades (Source: De Bontebrug)

Best wishes to you and your dear children in starting high school!

From the blog team: If you want to know more about this transition time for your children you can also refer to How to choose a middelbare school, also written by amazing Delft Mamas.

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