Considering moving abroad: Education in the Netherlands

So the first official post of my “considering moving abroad” series is on education in the Netherlands. I found a general overview over at Expatica, but it doesn’t go into as much detail as I would like regarding the university system. The pre-university education, at first glance, sounds pretty good.  This describes the first eight grades of Dutch schooling:

Obligatory subjects are: sensory co-ordination, Dutch, arithmetic, English, art and music, geography, history, science and nature, social structures, and religious and ideological movements.

Schools are required to not only teach but also impart social skills and insights. Attention is also given to the fact the Netherlands is comprised of different ethnic groups.

I am particularly glad to see that religious and ideological movements are an obligatory subject.  In America, those are often just covered peripherally through history lessons.  While I am a huge proponent of separation of church and state and that there is no place for the church in state-provided education, I enthusiastically think that it is important for children to learn about all of the major world religions and movements.  I wish I had learned more about Christianity as a subject matter when I was younger; my lack of knowledge regarding it left me missing many allusions and themes in literature and the arts.  Also, understanding the other religions and movements is a crucial step in understanding the people that are different from oneself.

Through Expatica‘s article I found this website: Study in Holland.  It has lots of information for international students, which may help me, as a foreigner, to understand their system.  From it I learned that there are two main types of universities in Holland: universities, and universities of professional education.  The universities are more like American universities, while the universities of professional education are more focused on providing specific training for a career than on a broader knowledge base.  About the regular universities:

There are 14 government-approved universities in Holland, three of which specialize in engineering. These institutions essentially train students in academic study and the application of knowledge, although many study programmes do also have a professional component and most graduates actually find work outside the research community.

The universities vary in size, with enrolments ranging from 6,000 to 30,000. Altogether they enrol some 205,000 students.

Among those, three of the universities I have already looked into are the University of Groningen, the University of Amsterdam, and Leiden University.  They all seem to be strong universities with rich history and robust research programs.

Most importantly regarding what we are looking into for our future kids and cost of living is the information regarding what university costs in the Netherlands.  This is what I’ve found so far regarding the cost of tuition:

Education in Holland is not free, but tuition fees are reasonable compared to other countries. In Holland, higher education is subsidized, which means that tuition fees can be kept relatively low, especially compared with the United Kingdom and the United States.

The annual tuition fees for enrollment on a degree programme or course at a Dutch higher education institution start at approximately €1,500 for EU students. The costs of programmes or courses for non-EU students are generally higher.

I would like to find out more about this.  By the time our own kids are ready for college, I imagine they will be citizens if we have chosen to stay in the country.  So I want to find out what it costs for Dutch citizens.

Of course, I am also interested in learning about the country’s educational system for my own research and career.  I have found a great site I will check out further and report back on: The Researcher’s Mobility Portal for The Netherlands.

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Considering moving abroad

So my husband and I are still seriously researching moving abroad after I finish my doctoral program here in the US. I’ve decided that as we continue to learn more about these other countries, I will post about it here under the tag “considering moving abroad.” Although I may not get to posting for each of the countries and aspects we look at, I intend to more thoroughly research the health care system; education system (in particular how university works and if it’s paid for by taxes or out of pocket); status and power of religion; economic state (including cost of living and job market outlook); climate; work-life balance outlook (parental leave, vacation time, hours worked per week, child care options); immigration and naturalization laws; attitudes towards minorities, drugs, and sex; and likely cost of visiting and keeping in touch with friends and family in the US.

Wow, looks like a big project. But then, we have at least three years to do this work, and it means so much to us we are eager to find out the information. So, let’s get started with my next post, about education in the Netherlands!

Moving abroad?

So Husband and I have been talking lately, seriously talking, about moving to a different country, moving out of America. Our top choices currently are Holland or Canada, but I would entertain the idea of moving to many of the European countries. So I spent some time today actually looking up universities and research in Amsterdam, Groningen, and Leiden, where there are some major dutch universities and research institutions. It seems like there may be lots of opportunities, and we even found that the country is actively trying to make it easier for scientists and their spouses to immigrate to Holland.

The more we talk about moving, the less it sounds like a pipe dream and the more real the idea becomes. We imagine moving upon the completion of my doctorate, so that I might get a post-doc in our new country. Husband already is self-employed, so as long as that continues, we imagine him finding new clients in the new country and continuing to work for himself. The problem about the idea becoming more real is that I feel less and less able to deal with how fed up I am with living in America, and I begin to be unable to imagine remaining here for another 4 years.

Things we consider essential in a new country:

  • Universal healthcare
  • Better parental leave policies
  • Shorter workweeks and more vacation time
  • Better educational system
  • Country is more environmentally conscious

Things we really want in a new country:

  • Legal same-sex marriage
  • Legal abortions
  • Legal euthanasia
  • Libertarian policies on drugs, prostitution, and alcohol (NO war on drugs!)
  • A more ideal climate for us – such as those found in Vancouver and Amsterdam (or even in San Fran).
  • College/University are available from the government for free or low prices
  • More egalitarian policies and less discrimination in all areas
  • Healthcare is government run instead of privatized

Among other things, we recently watched Michael Moore’s Sicko (it was leaked online), and it made us want to get the h*** out. Mostly though, it’s just that I’ve been realizing lately how extremely disillusioned I am with American life, and that I don’t see it getting better even if the democrats get the presidency back. These democrats are still conservative to me. None of them talk about ending the war on drugs. None of them are likely to enact the kind of tax laws necessary to help lessen monetary sex discrimination, and I’d be surprised if any of them managed to get universal health care on the table. And although things are slowly seeming a little better, there’s little hope that America will trust an atheist leader any time in my lifetime. Mostly, it’s all about quality of life. Some things affect us every day; others don’t. But even those that don’t (not allowing same-sex marriages, for example), just watching the fight and the suffering over this and being part of a country that makes these grossly ridiculous moral judgments regarding things that aren’t even their business, just being a part of that is not ok. I can’t stand for it anymore, but I’ve lost the enthusiasm for change through democratic processes in America, because so many of my fellow citizens are hopelessly guided by the ruling class into believing that we need to spend our time punishing people who are different from us instead of working to keep our poor fed and healthy. Americans are scared of the government, and no one pays attention when we march by the hundreds of thousands. I’m fed up, and I want to leave.

*Added June 18, 2007: something I forgot that we definitely want – the country is not involved in America’s “War on Terror”