Compulsory education information

Families who leave the Netherlands (temporarily), with children who have not yet reached the school-leaving age, might have to deal with the Compulsory Education Law. It makes a difference whether or not you decide to take yourself off of the Dutch governmental register. Education is compulsory for children in the Netherlands, starting the first day of the month after the child turns 5 years old, until the child attains a prime educational certificate between the ages of 16 and 18 years old. A prime educational certificate is either a VWO or HAVO diploma, or an MBO diploma of level 2 or higher. This law pertains to all residents of the Netherlands.

If you take yourself and your children off of the Dutch governmental register during your stay abroad, the Compulsory Education Law no longer pertains to you. You will then fall under the relevant law in the country you move to. On the issue of compulsory education, laws might differ from those in the Netherlands. In almost all countries, certain forms of home schooling are accepted (certainly for foreign expats). If proof of home schooling is required, a certificate of registration from the Wereldschool usually suffices.

If you choose not to take yourself off of the Dutch governmental register while you are abroad (and thus legally remain a resident in the Netherlands), you are required to contact a Compulsory Education Officer of your local government in due time. You will have to prove that your child will receive proper education, satisfying the law, during your absence from the country.

Meeting with the Compulsory Education Officer

You can arrange a meeting with a Compulsory Education Officer through your local government, in order to ask for permission to take your children abroad for a short time and to educate them using the Wereldschool. In most cases we know of, however, it has proven difficult to have this request approved. Is it therefore important for you to prepare for the meeting properly, and to be able to present the officer with a well thought-through plan to organize education for your children while abroad.

Several arguments, which you could present to the education officer, are (note that these have no legal basis):

  • law was created to ensure children are properly educated, to prevent them falling behind their peers. The Wereldschool ensures children will not fall behind abroad.
  • Your child’s school has indicated that their leaving presents no problem, as long as subsequent education has been organized properly (of course, discuss this with the school beforehand).
  • Various (Dutch) local governments accept this arrangement, as long as education has been organized for the stay abroad.
  • Your child’s development will benefit from time spent in another culture, as well as a stay abroad.
  • Children who have gone abroad and have been educated using the Wereldschool, have not had problems re-integrating into standard Dutch education

The meeting with the education officer results in one of three decisions:

  • You receive permission to take your child abroad, as long as the child is registered in a school abroad, and this school is regularly attended.
  • You do not receive permission, because according to Dutch law your child will have to be enrolled in a standard school requiring physical attendance.
  • The educational officer accepts the Wereldschool registration and arrangement.

Should you fail to receive permission, you may appeal the decision. However, in most cases this does not usually result in an affirmative decision, or an overturning of the first decision of the LPA officer. Please keep in mind that the LPA officer is simply following up Dutch law, and is not out to block your plans personally. 

What can you do if you have been denied permission by the education officer?

It is possible for you to take only your child off of the Dutch governmental register, but only if you are able to register them at an address abroad (for example, a friend’s or family’s address), and if the child is able to live there temporarily.                                         Take note: in January 2011, a judge decided that in principle, the child will follow the parent in all cases (Law 1, Article 12). Thus, it is better if one parent takes themselves off of the register along with the child. Do keep in mind that the AOW (Dutch state pension) of this parent is stopped if and when this parent is abroad for more than eight months consecutively.

You can take yourself off of the Dutch governmental register starting five days before your departure. You can do this in-person or by correspondence. You will receive a proof of removal. The local government will inform state organizations, such as the Tax and Revenue service and the State Pension service, of your departure. If you decide to take yourself off of the register, please make sure you are properly informed about the consequences, and do find out whether home-schooling is allowed in the country of destination.

Parents hold the prime responsibility for their child’s education. Parents who break the Compulsory Education Law may receive a court order, which might lead to a case against them. In some cases, proof that the parent attempted to provide education for their child while abroad might prove a mitigating fact, but a judge does not necessarily have take this into account. However, the Compulsory Education Law is only in effect if the child was resident in the Netherlands, or was abroad but had not been taken off of the governmental register.

What not to do

  • Do not keep your child registered at their school in the Netherlands. A Dutch school is only allowed to grant 10 days of absence per year. Should you be abroad longer than that, the school will be breaking the law and you will run the risk of an investigation by a LPA officer and a subsequent court order. Additionally, Dutch schools are not authorized to organize their own home-schooling abroad. Taking school material from your local Dutch school abroad is not sufficient, and these school don’t usually have specific manuals, a web-based pupil monitoring system, and does not have teachers experienced in remote guidance.
  • Do not register your child in a local school abroad for a short period (less than 8 months), without supplementing your child’s education with schooling from the Wereldschool. Keep in mind that in their new school, your child will be behind in their language development (assuming they don’t already speak the local language). Adjusting to a new school and language for such a short time takes up a lot of effort and energy, and often leads to the child falling behind because of language and/or integration problems. Furthermore, your child will subsequently have to re-adjust to the Dutch system, after your return.

You are better off choosing a combination of the Wereldschool and local education abroad, in order to prevent your child falling behind in their educational development. Sometimes it is possible to allow your children to participate in classes such as physical education and drawing in the local school, while taking up the rest of their subjects using the Wereldschool. Children in secondary education might work on their Wereldschool subjects independently at the local school.