Early childhood education and care in Flanders is divided in two distinct phases:
- child care
- pre-primary education
Childcare (ISCED 010) is organised for babies and toddlers (from birth until age 3. Childcare may be centre-based (groepsopvang) or home-based (gezinsopvang). These provisions are administered by the Flemish Minister of Welfare, Health and Family and the agency Kind en Gezin (see chapter 5).
From the age of 2-and-a-half children are legally entitled to free pre-primary education (ISCED 020). This provision falls under the responsibility of the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training. Growing up (formerly Child and Family Agency) is responsible for implementing the policy set up by the Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family. Early childhood education together with primary education constitutes elementary education. Primary education starts at the age of six.
The last year of pre-primary education is compulsory.
Educational guidelines from top-level authorities apply to the whole ECEC phase, but differ for each age group.