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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice

Belgium - Flemish Community


Last update: 27 November 2023

Academic bachelor programmes

Academically oriented bachelor programmes are programmes which follow upon secondary education or another bachelor programme (bachelor-after-bachelor). They put emphasis on a broad academic education or education in the arts. They are based on scientific research and aim at allowing the student to move on to a master programme or at granting him/her access to the labour market.


An association is a non-profit organisation to which university colleges and research colleges may transfer certain decision making powers. An association consists of on the one hand a research university, which has the authority to autonomously offer both bachelor and master programmes, and on the other hand at least one university college. A university college or research university can never be part of more than one association.

Attainment targets

Attainment targets are minimum goals which the government deems necessary and attainable for pupils in a certain level of education.

Basic education

Basic education offers programmes and courses to adults with a low level of basic competences and adults with a limited or unfished school career. There are 13 Centres for Adult Basic Education who offer various programmes and modules at the level of primary education and the level of the first stage of secondary education.

Blended learning

With blended learning part of the programme is taught in the classroom (face-to-face), while part of the programme may be processed independently, at home or in an open learning centre. 

Bridging programme

A bridging programme is a programme organised for students who have obtained a professionally oriented bachelor degree and want to start a master programme. It consists of a maximum of 90 credits. A bridging programme leads to a specific certificate, not to an academic degree.

Compulsory education

The Belgian constitution prescribes that every child has a right to education. In order to guarantee this right to education compulsory education has been introduced. Compulsory education starts on 1 September of the year in which a child turns six years old. A pupil needs to attend fulltime compulsory education until the age of 15 or 16. Afterwards part-time compulsory education applies. Most youngsters however choose to stay in fulltime secondary education. 

Compulsory education ends on the 18th birthday or on 30 June of the calendar year in which the youngster turns 18. For young people who have obtained the certificate of secondary education before they are 18 years old, compulsory education ends at that point.

Face-to-face education

In face-to-face education all classes are given in the classroom.  

Free education

Recognised education from a private initiative is called free education.

Freedom of education

Freedom of education is a constitutional right in Belgium. Every person or legal person may organise education and establish schools to that aim. The government may not prevent the establishment of free schools.

GO! education

The GO! education of the Flemish Community is the official education which is organised by ‘the GO! education of the Flemish Community Flemish Community’ by order of the Flemish Community. The constitution prescribes the duty of neutrality for the GO!. The religious, philosophical or ideological conviction of the parents and pupils must be respected.

Higher vocational education

On 1 September 2009 higher vocational education (HVE) was introduced in the Flemish educational system. HVE belongs to the level of higher education. The programmes are vocationally oriented and located between secondary education and professional bachelor programmes. From 1 September 2014 onwards the programmes are organised by a cooperation existing out of one university college, one or more Centres for Adult Education and/or one or more schools for fulltime secondary education.

Houses of Dutch

The Houses of Dutch are a collaboration between institutions supplying Dutch as a Foreign Language (NT2). They put non-Dutch speaking adults who want to learn Dutch on their way. A House of Dutch does not organize courses itself but holds a comprehensive overview of all courses of NT2 which are organized in the region. The houses do not refer a person to one specific school, but the candidate is informed about all possible options which match his/her profile.

In Flanders and Brussels there are 8 Houses of Dutch: one in each province and an additional one in Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels.

Inclusive education

Inclusive education allows children with special educational needs to take part in mainstream education. Here they follow an adjusted pathway and receive additional guidance. Besides learning and participating in the classroom a lot of attention is paid to social integration. This allows a pupil with special educational needs to feel accepted and for the other pupils in the classroom to grow up with the understanding that all people are different. Emphasis is thus put on the acceptance of diversity.

Integrated education

Integrated education is a cooperation between mainstream education and special needs education. It implies that children with a disability take classes or activities in a mainstream school. In this process they receive support from special needs education. The arrangement can be temporary or permanent for a part of the classes or for all classes. Integrated education aims at offering as many pupils as possible the chance to engage in mainstream education.

Integrated teacher training

Integrated teacher training programmes are professional bachelor programmes resulting in the degree of  teacher in early childhood education, teacher in primary education or teacher in secondary education. They are organized by university colleges only. From the 180 credits of the programmes 45 credits are dedicated to practical experience. In the integrated teacher training programmes for secondary education a student chooses two subject which (s)he may will be allowed to teach in the future.

Master programmes

Master programmes are programmes which follow upon a professionally or academically oriented bachelor programme of another master programme (master-after-master). They focus on advanced scientific or artistic knowledge or competences which are needed for the independent practice of science or arts, or for practicing a profession. They are rounded off by a master thesis.

Official education

Education which is organised by the government (the GO! and the municipal and provincial education) is called official education.

Part-time education in the arts

Part-time education in the arts (PEA) is additional education targeted at both children, youngsters and adults. Participants may register on a voluntary base and pay enrolment fees. PEA aims at the artistic formation of children and adults and so contributes to the development of their personality. Pupils discover art in all its expressions and learn how to approach and experience it critically. They may also practice these art forms themselves, individually or in group.

Primary education

Primary education in Flanders comprises both pre-school education and primary education.

Professional bachelor programmes

Professionally oriented bachelor programmes are programmes which follow upon secondary education or another bachelor programme (bachelor-after-bachelor). They are in the first place oriented at professional practice. The goal of the programmes is to bring the students to a level of general and specific knowledge and competences which are necessary for the independent practicing of a profession or group of professions. In this way they offer direct access to the labour market. Professional bachelor and bachelor-after-bachelor programmes are only organised by university colleges.

Pupil guidance centre

The pupil guidance centre or PGC is a service which is financed or subsidised by the Flemish government. Pupils, parents, teachers and school boards may turn to a pupil guidance centre with a question for guidance, information or advice.

The services of the PGC are free and can be situated within the following four domains:

  • Learning and studying
  • School career
  • Preventive health care
  • Socio-emotional development

A pupil guidance centre is a multidisciplinary organisation cooperating with other external services within their network: welfare and health institutions. Various professionals work in a PGC, such as doctors, social workers, educationists, psychologists, psychological assistants and nurses. According to the local needs and circumstances this team may be joined by speech therapists, physiotherapists, … Each team member has a couple of specific assignments, but must always cooperate with the other team members.

The pupil guidance centres also organise medical examinations which are obligatory in certain grades.

Reception education for foreign mother tongue newcomers

Foreign mother tongue newcomers are pupils who have recently arrived in Belgium from a foreign country and who will take part in Dutch-speaking education. These pupils may appeal to reception education for foreign mother tongue newcomers (OKAN). The goal of the reception education is to receive non-Dutch speaking pupils who have recently arrive in Belgium, to teach them Dutch and to integrate them in primary or secondary education and more broadly in the wider society.

School cluster

A school cluster is a collaboration of various schools of the same educational level (primary or secondary education) which cooperate in various fields (logistics, study offer, …). It may involve schools with the same school governing board or schools with a different school governing board. The schools may belong to the same educational network but this is not obligatory.

School governing board

The school governing board is a key concept in the organisation of Flemish education. The school board is responsible for one or more schools and can be compared to a board of directors in a company. It may take the form of a government, a natural person or a legal person/legal persons.

School governing boards dispose of a wide autonomy. They choose freely their teaching methods and may found their education on a certain philosophy of life or a teaching method. They may also determine their own curricula and timetables and appoint their own staff. Only for recognition of the school and for its financing by the government some conditions need to be fulfilled.


Since 2009-2010 the educational level secondary-after-secondary contains the programmes from the third grade of the third stage of technical secondary education en secondary education in the arts. In these market oriented programmes students may specialise during  one to three semesters. The programmes are organized by schools of secondary education. After finalising a programme a certificate is granted.

Single structure

Since 1989 fulltime secondary education is organised according to the single structure. This structure contains stages, types of education, fields of study and courses of study. The first and second stage consist of two grades, the third stage may comprise three grades. Pupils make a study choice only in the second stage in order to first acquainted with as many subjects as possible.

Standardised tests

Standardized, validated and standardized tests will be taken at 4 points in the educational career of pupils. These instruments should measure three things: the extent to which pupils reach the attainment targets, the learning gains of individual pupils, and the learning gains at school level. The aim of these tests is not to establish a ranking of schools, but to increase the learning gains. 

Specific teacher training

The specific teacher training leads to the degree of teacher. It gives a person the opportunity to teach in courses which fit his or her main degree of secondary or higher education. The programme is organized in various forms: face-to-face education, distance learning, evening and/or weekend education or fulltime daytime education. The specific teacher training is offered by Centres for Adult Education, university colleges and research universities. Most university colleges and research universities offer a specific teacher training programme for their master programmes. All teacher trainings are based on the same set of basic competences which a teacher must master and result in the same degree of teacher.

Subsidised private education

Subsidised private education is organised by a private person or a private organisation. The school board is often a non-profit organisation. Subsidised free educations consists primarily of catholic schools, which are united in the umbrella organisation the Flemish Secretariat of Catholic Education. There also exists protestant, Jewish, orthodox, Islamic, … schools. Besides denominational schools there are schools which are not linked to a religion. Examples are the alternative schools (on the basis of the ideas of Freinet, Montessori or Steiner) which apply specific teaching methods.

Subsidised public education

The subsidised public educational sector consists of schools run by the municipal authorities and schools run by the provincial authorities. The school boards of both groups are united in two umbrella organisations: the Educational Secretariat of the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities and the Provincial Education Flanders.

Umbrella organization

Within an educational network school boards may join a representative association of school boards, called an umbrella organization. An umbrella organization represents the school boards towards the government, but also supplies services to the schools by e.g. drafting the curricula and timetables.