After elementary school you go to secondary school. You are then about 12 years old. What can you choose?

Secondary education

Vocational education
Vocational education is intended for students that will not likely be able to graduate with a diploma along one of the courses of study in the vmbo. During the five years of vocational education, the student is guided via stages, theory and practical subjects to work or to work and supplemental education. Vocational education is, besides leading to work or to work and supplemental education, also focused on allowing the competence of the students to develop that they will need after school in the areas of living, citizenship and the use of free time.

The Lower Vocational Education (vmbo)
The Lower Vocational Education, usually abbreviated to vmbo, is one of four types of secondary education in the Netherlands. The students at vmbo schools are called vmbo’ers or vmbo students. The vmbo follows the elementary school and lasts for four years. That is roughly from the age of 12 to 16.

The vmbo offers four courses of study in secondary education which lead to the Intermediate Vocational Education (mbo).

  • Basic vocational program
  • Middle management-oriented learning program
  • Mixed learning program
  • Theoretical learning program

The vmbo is divided into four different subsections:

  • Economy
  • Technology
  • Care and Welfare
  • Agriculture

The school for higher general secondary education (havo)
The school for higher general secondary education that is often abbreviated as havo, is the second highest level in secondary education.  This education last five years. That is roughly from the age of 12 to 17. The havo prepares students for the higher vocational education (hbo).

A havo student will choose before the start of the fourth year a package of classes based on a profile. There are four profiles:

  • Nature & Technology
  • Nature & Health 
  • Economy & Society
  • Culture & Society

The pre-university education (vwo)
A completed vwo education allows entrance to a further course of study at a Dutch hbo and in the Dutch scientific education. The vwo last 6 years. That is roughly from 12 to 18. The vwo consists of:

  • athenaeum
  • bi-lingual education
  • gymnasium: high school with classical education and languages including Latin and Greek
  • vwo-technasium: high school with classical education and languages including Latin and Greek as well as ‘Research and Design’
  • vwo-plus: pre-university secondary education. This is the highest variant in the secondary educational system in the Netherlands.

Just like with the havo, the vwo has four profiles:

  • Culture & Society
  • Economy & Society
  • Nature & Health
  • Nature & Technology