The Basics about the Netherlands

This is the All About the Netherlands course, Lesson One: The Basics. In addition to having such a huge number of English taught programs, there are a number of other really cool things about the Netherlands

Slide 1: All About Netherlands, Lesson 1: The Basics

This is the All About the Netherlands course, Lesson One: The Basics.  In addition to having such a huge number of English taught programs, there are a number of other really cool things about the Netherlands

Slide 2: random pictures of the Netherlands

Of course, I always liked tulips, and windmills are cool and all. But I don't think I ever realized how beautiful canals are. I love how easy it is to get around the country by train. It's only two hours by train from the most eastern city in the country to the most western, and four hours from the northernmost city to the most southern. It's also incredibly easy to get other places in Europe by train or air.Of course, biking is HUGE here as well. The Netherlands is a very progressive liberal and tolerant country, individualism and critical thought are valued, and the Dutch culture values very direct communication. They also have the best English proficiency of all non-native speakers in the world, making navigation throughout the country a lot easier. 

There's a long history of sustainability in the country. Actually, the canals and windmills speak to that value. They have had to have this focus, given that much of the country is at or under sea level. The focus on sustainability extends to other areas of the country too, or other areas of life too. For instance, how people get around locally. There are four times more bikes than cars in the country, and 84% of the population owns at least one bike. Most people think of Amsterdam first when they think about Dutch cities but there are a lot of cities that have a lot to offer. The Hauge is an incredible city and almost all of our members who have visited Groningen hves fallen in love with it. Those are just two of the many great cities in the country. If you want to get a glimpse into different parts of the country, the YouTube channel in the resources section of this lesson has some good videos. 

Slide 3: The Dutch Education System

So I want to start the section off by providing some information about the Dutch education system. Since this is the information base you need to understand the types of higher education options, as well as the corresponding admissions requirements. This is one of the key things to understand when looking at Dutch universities. So we're going to start with this video which describes it well, assuming I can get this to work.

Video Playback:

For some people, the school system in the Netherlands can seem quite confusing. Well, in fact, it is pretty easy to understand. Let me help you. Children in the Netherlands are obliged to go to school. So at the age of four, they go to primary school for eight years. When a pupil finishes primary school, he/she can continue to one of three different types of Secondary Education, depending on the pupil's level. Preparatory secondary vocational education is vocationally-oriented and takes four years. From there on, a student can go on to secondary vocational education. This prepares students for work or a work-related study program. Its qualification levels range from one to four, with four being the highest level. After primary education, a pupil can also go to pre-university education. This is a six year long secondary education track designed to prepare students for research university where they can obtain a bachelor of arts or science or laws. After that, a student can continue studying to get a master's degree and do a PhD.

So far, the school system in the Netherlands seems very similar to systems in other countries. But here comes the part that makes it different from most. Between university preparatory education and preparatory secondary vocational education, there is another line of education a pupil can follow called senior general secondary education. This is five year long education that prepares them for studying in higher professional education. Higher professional education is taught at universities of applied sciences. This means that besides theoretical knowledge, the students will get practical hands-on experience through internships, group work and so on. A completed first year of higher professional education also grants access to the first year of a bachelor's program at a research university. After a student has received a bachelor's degree, he or she can continue studying and obtain a master's degree. Together, these eight qualification levels make up the Dutch Qualifications Framework. The binary education system makes it possible for students to find a higher education program that best suits their skills.

Okay. So I think that that really describes it well. We have these three different tracks; we have the vocational track, we have the HAVO track, and we have the VWO track. So if you're taking this course, you're looking for bachelor's degree programs, so we're going to focus on universities of applied sciences and research universities, and the equivalents for HAVO and VWO. 

Slide 4: Research Universities

  • VWO – equivalent to IB Diploma, US high school diploma + AP scores or 1 year college credits or full associate's degree
  • Preparing for master’s degree program
  • Stats, research methods classes
  • 3 years in duration

So research universities involve yes, a lot of research, with the emphasis on preparation for master's degree programs that have a research focus. Since most kids in research universities go on for their masters, the focus is less on internship and career preparation. As noted in the video, this is the path to a PhD program. If you decide to stay in the Netherlands to get your master's, there are one and two year programs with the two year programs as a PhD path, and the one year master's degree programs as a professional path. Bachelor's programs and research universities will always have a research and theoretical focusing component. You're going to take classes like statistics and research methods, no matter what your program is.

Slide 5: Universities of Applied Science

  • HAVO – University of Applied Science track – equivalent to US high school diploma
  • Full bachelor’s degree program – difference is the focus on skills/knowledge that will be used in the workplace – practical and applied knowledge as opposed to theoretical

So universities of applied science, they're more practical, and they focus on providing the knowledge that you need for your career. I want to note that these are full bachelor's degree programs and are academic, as opposed to what we might think of as vocational programs. As you saw in the video, there's a separate track for that. In some countries, the universities of applied science programs are in fact lesser quality than the research universities. In the Netherlands though, the quality is similar in both. It's simply about the approach and the field of study.

Slide 6: Looking at the differences

Media Studies at Research University

  • The impact media has on individual communication, cultural, political, and economical organizations
  • Theoretical perspectives on media platforms

Media Management at UAS

  • Media analysis, marketing communications, brand management and concept management, coordination of media productions

Let’s relate this to one of our members. Based on this members current interests, her needs would likely be better met by a Dutch university of applied science. So she knows that she wants to find a program in media studies or media management, or an interdisciplinary program that includes these areas. The search might bring her to the media studies program at Groningen University, which is a research university that I really love. Because research universities take a theoretical approach, this program looks at the impact media has on individual communication, the impact media has on cultural, political, and economical organizations of societies, and theoretical perspectives on media platforms. So a similar search would also take her to the media management program at Stenden University of Applied Sciences. This program focuses more on the business side. This member doesn't think she's interested in business, but the content described is exactly what she is interested in; brand management, content development, coordinating productions, digital marketing. Those are definitely things that she's interested in. We're going to talk more about these differences and the program-specific differences at the end of Lesson Three.

Slide 7: What are your learning preferences?

  • What have been your favorite and least favorite classes and why?
  • Which of the following do you prefer:
  • Projects
  • Papers
  • Tests
  • Lab work
  • Role playing

So we're going to talk about the admissions requirements for these later in a later lesson. But now I'd really like you to think about the type of learning you prefer, whether it's theoretical or practical. There'll be some areas of study that are only offered at one type or the other. You can't really get hands-on with something like philosophy. So those programs will always be at research university. You really need the hands-on with something like physiotherapy. So you will only find those programs at universities of applied sciences. There are some areas of overlap though, like the media studies we talked about before, or business, for instance. 

So think about what has been your favorite and your least favorite classes and why. Which of the following do you prefer? Do you prefer doing projects, or papers, or tests, or lab work, or role-playing? And when we get into some of the universities, you'll be able to see where those preferences are better aligned with. 

So in the next lesson, we will be talking about universities of applied sciences and we'll be going through the specific universities of applied science in the Netherlands.