Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 30/04/24


Dutch Council for Refugees Visit Website

According to the Compulsory Education Act,[1] all children in the Netherlands from the age of 5 to 16 should have access to school, education is compulsory for them. The abovementioned right to education is applicable to Dutch children as well as to children with refugee status or with subsidiary protection under similar conditions.[2]

Since the implementation of the Civic Integration Act 2021, municipalities are obligated to consider the family composition and the potential need for pre-school or early childhood education (voorschoolse- of vroegschoolse educatie (VVE)) during the intake process that determines the integration course. Pre-school education is provided for children aged two and a half to four years old who could benefit from extra attention and support in their development, such as language skills. The aim is to ensure that they can start primary school as well-prepared as possible. The Dutch government has established the frameworks, and municipalities are responsible for ensuring an adequate supply of pre-school education. Municipalities receive funding from the central government for this purpose. Early childhood education is not an independent form of education but rather a term for the additional support that primary schools provide to children in groups 1 and 2 who require it. Many primary schools, for instance, offer extra attention to language and reading. Furthermore, it is good to mention that municipalities are not obligated to arrange childcare, but they recognise that childcare is a prerequisite for enabling parents to participate in integration activities.[3]

The municipality where a child is housed is responsible for its access to education. In most cases, all children who are newcomers go to a regular school.[4] Schools receive a compensation for their costs to provide this specialised education. Furthermore, they can request for an additional financial compensation.

According to the recast Qualification Directive all minor children have the same access to education regardless their legal status. The Dutch Council for Refugees is not aware of any obstacles in practice for children to access education. There are preparatory classes, also known as international intermediate classes.

From the age of 16 and 17, children have the obligation to obtain a certificate in order to acquire access (a start qualification) to the Dutch labour market. Therefore, they need to obtain a diploma in secondary or vocational education. The conditions for Dutch nationals are the same as those for aliens.

Adults with a residence permit have the same access to education as Dutch nationals. Nevertheless, research shows that this group of beneficiaries faces difficulties to be accepted in education programmes. According to municipalities, whereas for 40% of the status holders the best way to integrate would have been starting an education, only 17% has started one in 2020. Reasons are among other an insufficient knowledge of Dutch or subjects such as mathematics or English, financial barriers or a lack of (soft) study skills.[5]  A recent research shows that, looking at the percentage of studying beneficiaries and their period of time having a permit, a higher amount of younger beneficiaries start an education, and the start occurs sooner after the obtention of their permit when compared to previous years.[6]



[1] Law of 30 May 1968, houdende vaststelling Leerplichtwet 1969, available in Dutch at:

[2] Article 27 recast Qualification Directive.

[3] Answers from the Minister of Social Affairs and Eployment to question Parliamentary Questions, KST 35483-51, 19 September 2023.

[4] Ministry of Education, Informatiedocument onderwijs aan asielzoekerskinderen, May 2016, 6.

[5] KIS and Divosa, Monitor gemeentelijk beleid arbeidstoeleiding vluchtelingen 2020, November 2020, available in Dutch at:

[6] Ibid.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation