The Netherlands - Living
Families with children
According to plenty research publications not only Dutch children are the happiest in the world, but also the parents.1 Part-time jobs, good child care and many leisure activities ensure a pleasant childhood and youth. The Dutch government has recognized in good time that families with children need to be supported. The school system is basically free. Child care cost money. Thus, depending on income, subsidies are available. The school system is internationally recognized, the training institutions are future oriented, and the universities can compete on a worldwide basis.
There is a wide range of (often spontaneous) crawling or play groups. This is predominantly offered in big cities. It is advisable to watch local social media groups. If there is no suitable group in your area, we can help and support you to organize something new.
If you need a babysitter, it is quite easy to find one. There are lots of German students with experience in the country. Write a posting into a local social media group and invite them for an interview. But there is also professional help. One German company stands out: Advice and Care for Parents and Babies, founded by Wiebke Mechau. She is a certified, professional maternity practitioner and night nanny.
There is also child benefit from the government in the Netherlands. The amount depends on the age of the child and whether your child lives with you or not. Basically, the child benefit is lower than in Germany. More information can be found on the page of Sociale Verzekeringsbank and Rijksoverheid. For child benefit requests, your DigiD is required.
Under certain circumstances, the difference of the German children's allowance can be applied for. And that depends on different conditions. The websites of Arbeitsagentur and kindergeld.org explains that in detail.
In the Netherlands kids start going to school when they are 4 years old. Younger children (6 weeks to 4 years old) can go to daycare (kinderdagverblijf), but that is facultative. You have to pay for the daycare, but you can claim childcare benefit (kinderopvangtoeslag).
At their 4th birthday, kids will attend primary school (basisschool in Dutch), which counts 8 grades. Grade 1 and 2 are classes for toddlers and from 3rd grade the children will learn how to read, write and do arithmetic.
At the end of 8th grade, when kids are about 12 years old, the CITO test will help decide what type of secondary school would be best for them.
- VMBO, 4 years of middle-level education combining vocational training and theoretical education. After this, it’s possible to proceed education in MBO or enter the job market right away.
- HAVO, 5 years of higher-level education. Graduates can apply at an HBO, a university of applied sciences.
- VWO, 6 years of preparatory scholarly education, preparing kids for university. The VWO is divided into atheneum and gymnasium. A gymnasium programme is similar to the atheneum, except that Latin and Greek are compulsory courses.
Secondary education depends on type of education, 4, 5 or 6 years. The first three years of the havo and vwo and the first two years on the vmbo are called the basic formation. After that, students choose a profile or a sector.
If your kid has special needs, because of a handicap, a chronic disease or a disorder, it might be useful to check out some special schools, where these kids will get all the attention they need.
Good to know: the Netherlands has a worldwide reputation for its high-quality education. It’s ranked #6 in Europe, right behind the Nordic Countries and Great Britain.
There are a few international school where they teach in a foreign language, usually English, or even German schools in the country.
On the website Dutch International Schools, you can find a general view of the international schools in the Netherlands.
Children of the German Army soldiers stationed at JFC Brunssum (former AFNORTH) can visit the local kindergarten (aged three to six years) and can follow a school education from grade 1 to 10 in elementary school and secondary school (Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium) in the inter-school curriculum. Please visit their website or ask the local company sergeant major.
In Eindhoven and Utrecht, there are schools which offer additional German classes for a few hours per month. Even if these are not official schools, they help to teach German-speaking children a better understanding of the language.
On the train with children
Children up to and including 3 years travel for free. For children under 12, there are two different offers to travel, the Kids vrij subscription and railrunner ticket.
With Kids vrij, children travel for free with a person older than 12 years (also to Belgium and Germany). This subscription must be loaded on the child's personal OV chipkaart. There is a discount for other public transport.
A Railrunner ticket costs € 2.50 per child per day. Your child can also travel alone in the 2nd class. The Railrunner ticket can be loaded on an anonymous, a personal or one-off (paper) OV-chipkaart.
For the other public transport companies there is a discount of 34%, condition is a personal OV-chipkaart with credits.
1 Finding Dutchland (2013). The 8 Secrets of Dutch Kids, the Happiest Kids in the World. Retrieved on September 14, 2017, from http://www.findingdutchland.com/happiest-kids-in-the-world/
2 World Top 20 Project (2017). 2017 World Best Education Systems – 1st Quarter Report. Retrieved on September 14, 2017, from http://worldtop20.org/2017-world-best-education-systems-1st-quarter-report