Subjects and attainment targets in primary education

All primary school children in the Netherlands are taught a number of compulsory subjects. These subjects are defined in terms of attainment targets. Schools are also free to teach extra subjects.

Attainment targets

The law sets primary education attainment targets for each compulsory subject. The targets indicate what children should know and what they should be able to do by the end of primary school. The attainment targets only apply to compulsory subjects. These must be taught to all children. Schools decide how the subjects are taught, and choose their own teaching materials.

Compulsory subjects

Primary schools must provide teaching in:

  • Dutch;
  • English;
  • arithmetic and mathematics;
  • social and environmental studies (including geography, history, biology, citizenship, road safety and political studies);
  • creative expression (including music, drawing and handicrafts);
  • sport and movement.

Frisian as a compulsory subject

Frisian is a compulsory subject for primary schools in the province of Friesland. Schools may apply to the provincial executive for exemption if less than 5% of pupils at the school have a Frisian background.

Extra subjects

Schools may choose to teach extra subjects in addition to the compulsory core curriculum, such as religious education, French or German. Parents can give their opinion on extra subjects through the school’s participation council.

Religious education

Religious education is taught at almost all private schools. These lessons are compulsory. As a rule, public-authority primary schools do not teach religious education or ethics. Parents can ask the school board to teach this as an extra subject.

Science and technology

Primary schools must give lessons in science and technology. These areas are covered by the attainment targets.

The Netherlands has a shortage of skilled technical workers. That’s why the government wants schools to devote more time to maths and science. Businesses and higher technical education institutions help schools introduce pupils to technology so that more pupils will choose technical training courses.

Compulsory lessons on sexuality

All schools have to teach sexuality and sexual diversity. These areas are covered by the attainment targets. Children learn to respect sexual differences and preferences, and help them avoid becoming a victim of sexual violence.