Primary education is intended for pupils between 4 and 12 years and lasts for eight consecutive years. The first year is not compulsory. Depending on results pupils will start in different forms of secondary education.
Secondary education is intended for pupils between 12 and 18 years of age. Since 1993 all types of secondary education start with a period of basic secondary education, which usually lasts 2 to 3 school years and offers a broad range of subjects that is in principle the same for everyone.
There are four different types of education:
Vocational education and training on senior secondary level is provided in two learning pathways: the apprenticeship system and senior secondary vocational education. In both learning pathways the courses are based on national standards, decreed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
The apprenticeship system
Participants attend courses at school during one or two days a week; they work in practice during three or four days. The apprenticeship system is divided into three levels:
Participants receive the diploma of a course in the apprenticeship system from one of the national bodies of vocational training.
Senior secondary vocational education
Senior secondary vocational education and training is indicated as mbo. Students attend courses at school on a full-time basis, supplemented with periods of practical training, lasting from a few weeks up to one year within a company or institution.
The courses are divided into three levels:
Students receive the diploma senior secondary vocational education from the school. The diploma allows transfer to higher professional education.
Higher education is distinguished into higher professional education (hbo) and university education (wo). The identity of hbo is defined in relation to its focus on professional practice; the identity of the universities is intertwined with scientific research.
University education has a two-phase structure. The first phase lasts four years. The second phase, which lasts two or three years, is an advanced training programme for scientific research. It has limitations in capacity and admission.
Adult education is oriented towards adults aged 18 and over. The most important forms are: