Strong potential, support for international childhood education in Friesland, IWCN research finds

Research commissioned by the province of Friesland and the municipality of Leeuwarden and carried out by IWCN into the creation of international primary and secondary school education in Friesland were shared with northern stakeholders in late March.

The research, which also relied on additional knowledge and data from the Dutch National Bureau of Statistics, gathered by research consultancy agency Decisio, determined that the presence of international education for younger children (primary and secondary) is just as important of a reason for international professionals to move to a new country in the first place country as it is for them to decide to remain in that country (or region) for the longer term.

As such, employers in Friesland recognize the appeal of international education in the province for qualified professionals, and consider it a prerequisite for the province to call itself a truly international labour market.

Leeuwarden alderperson Abel Reitsma, whose portfolio includes coordination of economics, education and the labour market, and Mike Weston, director of International School Groningen in Haren, also provided valuable insights and guidance in this collaborative research effort.

Leeuwarden: a logical location

Leeuwarden is home to the most internationals and knowledge migrants in Friesland – 4,300 – making it a logical place to develop an international school. It’s also located in the center of the province, meaning easy access for families living in nearby municipalities. In the entire province of Friesland, there are 62,555 internationals, including 15,655 children.

Friesland is also a growing international business climate, with high-value knowledge ecosystems, such as the Water Campus and the Innovation Cluster in Drachten. There are quite a few established multinationals, including Philips, BASF, and Douwe Egberts, as well as innovative small to medium businesses. English-taught HBO and WO-level programmes are already well represented in Friesland at NHL Stenden and RUG Campus Fryslan, as well as Wetsus, and there are many international companies in the Frisian cities of Drachten, Heerenveen and Leeuwarden.

Beyond the companies and resources that are already present in Friesland, other labour market trends also make the case for the need for investing in internationals from the very beginnings of their education. Internationalisation of the Dutch business community is increasing, and more multinationals and SMEs are hiring international staff due in no small part to ongoing Dutch labor shortages.

Cooperation, collaboration and creation

Three connected approaches emerged from the research that merit further investigation: existing primary and secondary schools in Friesland working together to develop international education; creating a brand new international primary school in collaboration with the Groningen School Association (GSV); and developing a branch location in Leeuwarden of the International School Groningen to provide international secondary education.

Cooperation among the participating schools, governments and employers is seen as a fundamental prerequisite in order to ensure that this endeavor will succeed. The time frame for potential development of international education in Friesland aims for a starting date for the first students in September 2025