Schoolsystems; the Netherlands and the U.S. Both a big challenge being Gifted.

There is no such thing as pre-K in the Netherlands, but there is 'peuterspeelzaal' where a child can go the day he turns 2. The child usually goes there one morning and one afternoon every week.There are also 'special peuterspeelzalen' where children go to, who need more attention. They usually go 4 half days every week to the 'special peuterspeelzaal'. Parents have to pay a small amount of money, based on their salary. Who earns more, pays more.

In the Netherlands you go to the 'basisschool' the day you turn 4. Children stay at that same school untill they are about 12. Parents only pay parental contribution every year. This is a small amount that the schools usually spents on trips, special days, small presents, etc. The exact amount varies by school, but is mostly less then 50 euro's (about 70 dollars).

After the basisschool you go to the 'voortgezet onderwijs / middelbare school'. Depending on the level of education you go to, you will spent about 4-6 years at this school. The middelbare school has VMBO (4 different possibilities), HAVO and VWO. Parents have to pay school fees (for P.E. clothes, dictionaries etc.)   and parental contribution.

After the middelbare school you can go to the Middelbaar Beroeps Onderwijs (also known as MBO), to the Hoger Beroeps Onderwijs (also known as HBO) or to a University. As a student in the Netherlands you can get study funding from the government. There is a based scholarship, a supplementary scholarship and a loan. The amount you will get depends on a lot of factors, such as: level of education, living at home or not, income of parents and siblings that already get a scholarship) Parents pay for MBO (from the day their child turns 18) about 1065 euro per year (1500 dollar), plus about 500-1000 euro for books etc. For HBO 1835 euro per year, plus 1000 euro for books. And for university about 1835 euro per year statutory and institution tuition, which the university can determine. This depends on the university you go to and on the study you choose. (This variates from 6000-25.000 euro).

As you can see below, as you follow the arrows, you can't just go to University after completing VMBO or HAVO.

In the Netherlands you still have special schools, but there is a lot changing. 'Passend onderwijs' (appropriate education) is the goal of the Dutch government, which will start in August of 2014. Also explained as ‘Gewoon als het kan, speciaal als het moet.’ Which means: 'Regular if possible, special if needed'.

There are also a few schools for Gifted children; the 'Leonardoscholen' and some other forms. Usually the parents pay more for those schools.


The schoolsystem in The Netherlands
The schoolsystem in The Netherlands (

When we arrived in the U.S. we thought our youngest son, aged 4, could immediately go to Kindergarten. (That's what a HR employee told us). That turned out to be very different. He is almost 5 1/2 years old now and still in parttime pre-K. While in the Netherlands he already was in Kindergarten, fulltime!

I must say I really enjoy having him home, but I doubt if this is good for him. He can already read in Dutch since he was 4, read in English since he was 5, count till like a 1000 in both languages and do math. The only challenging part for him was learning English, which took him 4 months.

Next year he will finally go to Kindergarten. Unfortunately there is no fulltime Kindergarten at our neighborhood school, so he will have to go there by bus.

Our oldest son first went to a regular school in the Netherlands, aged 4, then skipped one year and finally went to a regular school with special classes (fulltime) for Gifted children. He was doing Math there three years up!  Moving to the U.S. meant for him being put back in his 'normal' level with 'normal' kids and a 'normal' teacher in a second language. The language was a challenge for a few months as well...

He now has AT Reading, Math Investigation and the rest of the time ????

I think that in both (the Dutch and American) 'regular' schoolsystems there still has to be done a lot more for Gifted Children!

I thought that America was way ahead on giftedness compared to the Netherlands, but that was A BIG MISTAKE! At least in our district, which I found out yesterday evening in a board meeting of the district. The doctor that wrote a report on Giftedness in the district pointed out almost all the things I had been working on back in the Netherlands.

I can't describe what this information made me feel...

I will try to explain more of my background, so maybe my feelings get a bit more clear for you:

I used to be a teacher, counseler and Gifted Coordinator on a regular school in the Netherlands. I was trying to implement a solid plan for Gifted Children on my school. That was a huge struggle for me and the school!

And as a child at the 'basisschool' I used to feel totally misunderstood, not challenged and so bored!

After the Board Meeting yesterday evening I felt anger, disappointment, grief and challenged!

I am going to try to write a book (in Dutch) about how teachers can implement a good program for the Gifted children, in their daily routine. Not outside of the classroom (maybe just a little bit), but IN the classroom. A practical book seen from a teachers, mother's and expert's view.

Tomorrow I am going to start with a mindmap for my book, like a used to teach my Gifted children in the Netherlands!

Let the challenge begin!

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Filed under: gifted, mother, schoolsystem, teacher


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  • Hi Annemarie, I read your blog with interest. It seems to me that the school program in the States is much less standardized than in Holland (and other European countries), which leads to huge differences in the quality of the education offered. My husband and I are very happy with the school our five-year-old Dutch-American son attends since our arrival in Chicago. Most of his classmates started school (every day from 8.30 until 13.00 or 14.00) at the age of three.
    It depends where you live of course but perhaps you should consider Chicago's Montessori School or the French Lycée for your boys, to keep them from being bored. Best, Shirley

  • Hi Shirley, thanks for your comment.
    I think that's true, there are more differences in school programs here, even within one state. A lot of the differences, unfortunately, depend on how much money you have to spent.
    From what I have heard people around here pick the school first and then look for a house. That makes me think about equal rights for good education. My youngest son could have started from being a baby at the school he attends now. So, it's more of a daycare than a school. The Chicago schools are to far, and to expensive too. I am comparing the 'regular' schools, because I think every child should be able to get the eduation they need, without paying of a loan the rest of their lives.

  • In reply to DutchAlien:

    I totally agree on equal rights for good education. Luckily school is not everything in a child's life. It seems wonderful to me to have kids growing up outside the city, in the amazing Illinois countryside.

  • In reply to shirleyhaasnoot:

    You are so right, school is definitely not everything in a child's life! I think you can compare school for a child to work for an adult. But we're both Dutch, so maybe the American people who read this will think totally different( work to live-live to work) about this?!

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