Figures - Education

The number of (special) primary school pupils has been declining since the academic year 2008/’09. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years based on population forecasts by Statistics Netherlands. In the academic year 2016/’17, there were slightly over 1.5 million primary school pupils in the Netherlands, a decline of more than 8 percent relative to 2008/’09.

In the 2016 End of Primary School Test, boys achieved the same average score as girls. Students from the top high income families scored on average 8 more points than those from families with the lowest parental income.

Secondary school enrolment has increased slightly over the past few years to almost 1 million in school year 2016/’17. Over 40 percent of these students are in their first or second year or in a third general year. Around one-third are enrolled in third-year HAVO or VWO and up, while over 20 percent are enrolled in the third or 4th (final) year of VMBO. Another 3 percent of secondary school students are in practical education.

Over the course of the 20th century, a gradual shift took place at secondary schools from elite to mass education. The main reasons for the growing numbers of students are the expansion of compulsory education, the introduction of a new law on secondary education (the ‘Mammoth Act’ of 1968) and an increase in the population cohort aged 12 to 18 years.

Student numbers in upper secondary vocational education (MBO) rose until 2010/’11 and subsequently declined year-on-year, but a new upward trend occurred in 2016/’17. The number of Level 4 MBO students has seen a continuous rise, reaching 53 percent in 2016/’17. The student population at all other levels, notably Level 2, has declined in recent years.

Higher education enrolments stood at slightly over 714 thousand in the academic year 2016/’17. Two decades ago, this was still only 440 thousand. Since 1997/’98, higher professional (HBO) students have included more women than men; this trend was followed in 2007/’08 by university (WO) students.

Among first-year HBO students in 2016/’17, more than 15 thousand had chosen management, business or human resource studies. Close to 6 thousand students took nurse or midwifery training, almost all female (90 percent). By contrast, software development and system analysis drew almost exclusively male students: 93 percent of the 5 thousand first-year students.

At universities, many students who enrolled in 2016/’17 had chosen management, business and human resource studies; altogether nearly 12 thousand. Of the more than 2 thousand first-year medical students, 7 out of 10 were female.

The Netherlands’ rise in education spending has mainly been focused on higher education. Since 2010, more has been spent on higher education than on primary education. Higher education spending went up from 8.8 billion euros in 2005 to 13.1 billion euros in 2015.

Over a ten-year period, education (including research) expenditure increased by 32 percent to 42.3 billion euros in 2015. In the same period, public expenditure increased by 7.6 billion euros. Households and businesses spent more on education as well by 1.3 and 1.1 billion euros respectively.

In 2015, all higher educational institutions combined received 11.8 billion euros towards education and research. This is equivalent to an amount of 15 thousand euros per student. In higher education (not including research), spending reached almost 10 thousand euros per student. Spending was lowest on primary education at 7 thousand euros per pupil.


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Explanation of symbols

empty cell Not applicable
. Data not available
* Provisional figure
** Revised provisional figure (but not definite)
2016-2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 Average for 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/’17 Crop year, financial year, school year, etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2014/’15-2016/’17 Crop year, financial year, etc., 2014/’15 to 2016/’17 inclusive

Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond to the sum of the separate figures.

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