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International Schools in the Netherlands

International schools in the Netherlands fall into two categories: the private schools and the public schools.  In the Netherlands, the private, English schools are as follows:

The International School of Amsterdam
The American School of the Hague
The British Schools of the Netherlands (the Hague, Amsterdam, and elsewhere)
The American School of Rotterdam
The British School of Amsterdam.

All of these schools, except for the last, are “combined” elementary, middle school and high schools; however, the British schools are on separate campuses.  The prices for these schools start at 11,000 Euros per year and go up from there. 

Legally, the private schools are foundations and fall into a gray area of Dutch law.  They are not governed by Dutch education law, ostensibly because the Dutch view these schools as educating primarily foreigners.  Thus, both the laws that apply to school organization (those that require children be taught in Dutch for a certain number of hours per week, that they follow the Dutch government schedules, that they be inspected by Dutch education  inspectors) and the laws that apply to Dutch teachers (ridiculously low hours, extensive days off, workers councils, etc.), do not apply to these schools.  Teachers are hired on contracts and may be fired under reasonable, European conditions.

As a result, the international, English language private schools are run as you might inspect an international school to run.  They are very international in perspective, while remaining very “true” to the core of their educational curriculum.  Their teachers are hired competitively from all over the world out of a pool of experienced international teachers.  Teachers are paid internationally competitive salaries and are expected to contribute as they do in their home countries, such as through working similar hours and tasks as they would elsewhere.  Teaching English is a priority, as is teaching English as a second language.  The culture that is dominant is one of international citizenship, inclusion, respect, and support for newcomers. Inspections and accreditation are handled by authorities outside of the Netherlands.

You need to  know this because, for the most part, there are few independent, private schools in the Netherlands.  The Dutch government long ago co-opted other types of schools by creating a set of public school requirements which allows schools of diverse curricula and “cultures,” such as Montessori, Waldorf, Catholic, Protestant, etc. to receive public funding.  In exchange, the schools commit to certain schedules, certain basic curriculum requirements, Dutch inspections, and Dutch education labor laws. 

As of 2004, there are “international” schools in nine cities in the Netherlands that also fall into this public school category. They are in the cities of:

Den Haag

You can find more contact information about each one specifically by going to: http://www.intschools.nl/.

These schools suffer from a lack of funding.  Even though they will charge fees of say, 3000 to 5000 Euros to supplement the government funding received, these fees do not make up the difference for the schools to be able to pay internationally competitive salaries.  To be blunt, the teachers are paid Dutch level salaries, and a sad fact is that the Dutch pay some of the lowest teachers’ salaries of any country in the developed EU.

Not surprisingly, teachers that are paid amongst the lowest salaries in the EU are not incented to spend a lot of time working, and the Dutch education labor laws assist them.  Dutch elementary teachers are entitled to 16 holidays, called ADV days, while their classes are up and running.  In addition, there is a generous sick leave policy, which means that anyone slightly disabled, such as with arthritis or a bad back, may be entitled to work less than a full week.  And, to top it off, older teachers are entitled to additional days off per week, making it possible for them to work only four days per week. 

Low pay has also resulted in a shortage of teachers, a condition far more likely in a public international school owing to the limited supply of native English teachers.  Combining a shortage of substitute teachres, with the Netherlands’ generous sick leave policy, it is possible for a teacher to go out sick without a substitute, in which case the students are divided amongst other classes.  If there are not enough classes in their age group, they may be sent to older or younger classes, or they may be sent home.

A lack of funding means that the teachers, who at elementary levels may have no more than the most basic degree, do not receive much training, and in particular, training on cultural sensitivity, behavior modification, discipline or English-as-a-second-language. Because the teachers are hired under Dutch education law, schools are severely constrained in their ability to dismiss poorly performing or repeatedly absent teachers.

A lack of funding also means a lack of materials, such as real textbooks to be followed.  Indeed, the English reading/writing curriculum followed may not follow any nationally recognized reading/writing program, nor will it necessarily be consistent grade to grade, as when a child would follow a series of textbooks as he/she moves up in grades.  There may be no consistent English spelling curriculum.  The school will not necessarily have been inspected on site by internationally qualified inspection teams, nor by independent inspection teams.  Parents will not have been surveyed as part of an inspection process to assess the quality of the “international” school.  If they have been surveyed, you may not be able to see the results.

And a lack of funding can limit any “extras” that might normally have had if they had an equivalent in a native English country, such as afterschool programs, playthings for the children to play with during recess, and paid, trained playground supervision.  And most certainly, “extras” such as programs for learning disabilities in English.

Lastly, these schools suffer as well from serving two masters. The governing rules that established these public “international” schools intended them, in part, to be for Dutch children who were transitioning from or to an international experience. Most of these schools have a significant Dutch language section.  Often, the school management is Dutch and the school boards are top heavy with Dutch representation: generous, well intentioned people who have limited experience with foreign, English language schools.  Rarely will you find an an expat majority on the public international schoolboard. As a result, these schools may have a much more Dutch culture than an international one.  In essence, these public “international” schools may be more like Dutch schools which attempt English instruction and internationalism, but without regard to foreign standards and expectations, checks and balances, and sufficent funding.