Schooling is free and children are required to go to school from the age of five to eighteen. They can attend school part-time for the first two years.

Families have a wide choice of schools. The state provides public schooling and pays for specialized schools run by religious and other groups. There are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic and Hindu schools. Students can also learn under the Montessori system or other educational methods. Three-quarters of Dutch schools are connected with a religion or special method of education and the rest are public schools.

Schools may ask parents for contributions to pay for extra-curricular activities. Uniforms are not required. Some school officials feel that wearing a uniform limits children's freedom to express themselves.

Schoolchildren who live near war cemeteries tend the resting places of soldiers from Canada and other Allied countries who died liberating the Netherlands during World War II. In class, students are told which grave they will keep tidy and well cared-for. Children wash the headstones and pull weeds from the grass around them.

Did you know?

In the northern province of Friesland children learn Frisian, the official language there, as well as Dutch and English.

Secondary school students take compulsory courses from ages 12 to 15, then choose which direction they will take. Some select job training or apprenticeship programs. Apprentices learn at school and in the workplace. Other students choose courses that prepare them for university. Almost a quarter of the young adults in the Netherlands attend university full or part-time. The government provides financial aid to students who need it.
Schoolchildren sometimes get a special day off when the canals freeze hard enough for skating. This holiday is called an ijsvrij. Since bright days are rare, they also look forward to a zomervrij - an occasional day off when schools close because it's sunny outside.