Compulsory education and compulsory qualification

Compulsory education applies to children aged between 4 and 16. The BES Compulsory Education Act (Leerplichtwet BES) ensures that all children are enrolled in a school and attend school until they turn 16. Parents or carers will be called to account if this does not happen.

Schools are obligated to report unauthorised absence to the public entity. If a student misses school or is not enrolled in a school, the school attendance officer will investigate why. Parents and young persons (from the age of 12) risk a fine if children do not attend school and/or are not enrolled in a school. Young persons may also be given a training order or community service order.

If a student goes abroad outside the holidays, they should provide a declaration of dispensation, exemption, leave of absence or relocation. This has been laid down in the BES Compulsory Education Act.

Compulsory qualification

The compulsory qualification for young persons who have not yet obtained a basic qualification starts after the last school year of compulsory education. A basic qualification is a HAVO (senior general secondary education), VWO (pre-university education) or MBO (senior secondary vocational education) diploma (level 2). The government regards this level as a minimum requirement for proper participation in society.

The compulsory qualification applies until the young persons has obtained a basic qualification. Or until the day the young person turns 18. The basic qualification is one of the measures to prevent young persons from dropping out of school without a diploma. The compulsory qualification forces young persons older than 16 years to take a complete training course. 

The compulsory qualification does not always mean being in school five days a week. Young persons may also combine work and going to school. The compulsory qualification is also laid down in the BES Compulsory Education Act and is also enforced by the school attendance officer.

School attendance officer

The school attendance officer is in the employment of the public entity. The school attendance officer monitors compliance with compulsory education. They also educate young persons and parents on the importance of attending school. And on the consequences of violation of the Compulsory Education Act. If a child no longer wants to go to school because they have a problem, the school attendance officer will look for a solution – in consultation with the school and parents. The parents and the school remain primarily responsible for the child. In the event of unjustified absence, the parents and the students of 12 years and older are responsible.

If young persons who are legally required to attend school or to have a basic qualification, are not enrolled in a school and/or are not attending school or receiving training at a training place (“work”), the parents and/or the young persons are punishable. The parents and young persons risk a fine. Young persons may also be given a training order or community service order.