The Dutch educational system

Educational systems change constantly, including the Dutch system. In 1997, the Act on Adult and Vocational Education was introduced.

Students could now participate in vocational education and training in two pathways:

  • Mainly theoretical education at school, and practice placement in a work placement company (bol, the school-based pathway)
  • Mainly practical training in a work placement company, and theoretical education at school (bbl, the work-based pathway).

Students receive the same diploma for both pathways. Diplomas can be obtained in both pathways for all four levels of the current senior secondary VET-system. Read the complete description.

dutch educational system

Description of the diagram of the current Dutch educational system

The diagram of the current Dutch educational system is to be read from the bottom up.

The diagram starts with primary education for all children from 4 to 12 years.

After primary education there are three kinds of secondary education:

  • Pre-university education (vwo)
  • Senior secondary general education (havo)
  • Preparatory secondary vocational education (vmbo)

After secondary education there are three kinds of further education:

  • Academic higher education (wo)
  • Higher professional education (hbo)
  • Senior secondary vocational education (mbo)

The arrows in the diagram indicate how the student can transfer horizontally or vertically, for example from hbo to wo or from vmbo through mbo to hbo.

Dutch educational system before 1 August 1997

The educational system before 1 August 1997 is explained schematically below. You also find this in PDF at the bottom at the page. Read the complete description.

Description of the diagram of the Dutch educational system before 1 August 1997

The diagram of the Dutch educational system before 1 August 1997 is to be read from the bottom up.

The diagram starts with primary education for all children from 4 to 12 years.

After primary education there are four kinds of secondary education:

  • Pre-university education (vwo)
  • Senior secondary general education (havo)
  • Junior general secondary education (mavo)
  • Junior secondary pre-vocational education (vbo)

After secondary education there are four kinds of further education:

  • Academic higher education (wo)
  • Higher professional education (hbo)
  • Senior secondary vocational education (short, intermediate or long) (mbo)
  • Apprenticeships (foundation, secondary or tertiary)

After wo and hbo students have the option to attend post-initial higher education.

The arrows in the diagram indicate how the student can transfer horizontally or vertically, for example from mavo to havo or from havo through hbo to wo.