Originally published in AMS business magazine 2019-2020.

The years 2018 and 2019 brought new schools, expansions and ideologies that encourage a global outlook. Families that are new to the Netherlands can choose from the vast selection of schools and educational approaches that have played a significant role in Dutch children being some of the happiest in the world. The excellent standard of teaching and proven educational philosophies on offer in the Amsterdam Area sets students up to attend top ranked universities and enter a highly skilled workforce where opportunities are ample. In line with Amsterdam’s welcoming and internationally-inclusive mindset, schools in the region are adapting their approaches, facilities and curriculums to accommodate increasing numbers of international students.

As part of the ‘Amsterdam Strategy for International Talent’, a collaborative initiative between municipalities, government bodies, schools, universities and business leaders, education in the region is adapting to international residents. Public and private international schools have been working towards increasing their capacity for enrolment, as more and more international families make Amsterdam their home.

New schools open their doors in Amsterdam and beyond

The Amsterdam International Community School (AICS) has taken on a significant expansion to meet demand for space. In September 2019, the school’s new premises in Amsterdam Zuidoost, known as AICS South East, will open for primary and secondary students. One hundred international students currently attend AICS South East at its temporary location in the east of the city, but capacity will increase to 500 when it moves to its spacious new building. 

AICS also has plans to adapt its curriculum to include the Hoger Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs (‘higher general secondary education’; HAVO) branch of education for students who will go on to attend colleges of applied sciences rather than research universities. It is rare for an international school in the Netherlands to offer this educational level – an indication that schools are actively responding to students’ needs.

Adding to the mix of international schools in the region, International School Laren opened in 2018 for secondary education, while International School Wassenaar – Rijnlands Lyceum will ring the opening bell on its international expansion in September 2019. It is closely connected to the existing Dutch school, which gives students the benefit of being part of the local community, following an international curriculum in English within the context of a Dutch school. Additionally, just outside the Amsterdam Area, the International School Delft will open its secondary expansion in August 2019, just in time for the new school year.

Dutch schools encourage integration

International families are also increasingly choosing to enrol their children in traditional Dutch schools, a choice influenced by the excellent standard of education and children’s abilities to develop language skills at a young age. Dutch schools throughout the region are proactively working to meet the needs of their international students, making efforts to ensure smooth transitions for international families. 

Kindercampus Zuidas creates a welcoming environment for newcomers by incorporating English into the school day. “We aim to conduct 35% of our education in English,” says director Miriam Heijster. “For example, gym and music lessons are given in English, and birthdays are also celebrated in English as well as Dutch. Our goal is not to teach children to speak English as perfectly as possible, but to develop an open mind to the world.” 

In addition, a range of bilingual primary and secondary schools teach some subjects in English and others in Dutch. This approach enables international students to integrate more easily, as they reach a high level of proficiency in both languages alongside their Dutch peers.

New in the Netherlands

For families relocating to the Netherlands with non-Dutch-speaking children, so-called newcomers’ classes and international bridging classes are available to help ease the process.
These classes are for children aged 6 to 18 who will go on to attend regular Dutch or
bilingual schools. They provide a one-year introduction to Dutch language and culture,
ensuring students feel more comfortable joining their Dutch peers the following school
year. Seventeen locations in the Amsterdam Area offer newcomers’ classes at no extra cost. Enrolment information is available through primary and secondary schools

World-renowned degree programmes

Universities and colleges are also adapting to the influx of international students who want to benefit from Amsterdam’s reputation for educational excellence.

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) currently enrols 5,622 international students. It offered 14 bachelor’s and 53 master’s programmes in English for the 2017-2018 academic year, including its Communication & Media Studies programme, which the prestigious QS World University Rankings has rated the best in the world for the past two years. UvA has also attracted many international students to its master’s in Artificial Intelligence (AI), thanks to the development of its world-class AI hub for cocreation between students, researchers and businesses. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, known locally as the VU, is another top-ranking university intent on expanding its international education offerings.

From school through to a career in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has also proposed creative solutions for graduates who have completed their studies and are looking to enter the job market. The one-year Orientation Year permit is a way for eligible graduates from outside the EU to look for employment or take part in an internship without the need for a traditional work permit. As a result, Dutch organisations can make the most of ambitious students and their recently-acquired expertise.

By working collaboratively to meet the needs of international families, international education in Amsterdam has moved to the top of the class in Europe. As the region continues to adapt traditional approaches to education and invest in schools that rate diversity and multiculturalism as highly as academic achievement, it strengthens its talent pool for future business success.