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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Belgium - Flemish Community

2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023
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Elementary education includes nursery education (2.5 - 6 years) and primary education (6 - 12 years). Parents can choose whether the transition from nursery to primary education takes place at the age of five, six or seven, subject to non-binding advice from the school and the CPG. 

Pupils who have fallen behind in their learning or are less well-suited to predominantly theoretical education start secondary education in 1st grade B. They can also enter this grade on the basis of age (after up to eight years of elementary education) without having completed elementary education. After 1st grade B, pupils can enter 1st grade A or pre-vocational 2nd grade.

Although the first stage of secondary education focuses on a common core curriculum, the options that are offered already reflect the branches of education between which pupils have to choose when they move up to the second stage: general secondary education (GSE), vocational secondary education (VSE), arts secondary education (ASE) and technical secondary education (TSE).

After the two grades of the first stage or from the age of 16, pupils can opt for part-time compulsory education, but with a full-time commitment. They are then screened for the alternance training system, and have a choice within this between part-time vocational secondary education, an apprenticeship (for an independent occupation) or part-time training with systematic learning pathway guidance.

Compulsory education ends at the age of 18. The compulsory education requirement can also be satisfied by following home schooling.

After the 3rd stage of SE, pupils can opt for: 

  • highly vocation-oriented advanced secondary education organised by secondary schools;
  • higher vocational education; 
  • integrated teacher training programmes;
  • Bachelor’s programmes organised by university colleges;
  • Bachelor’s programmes organised by universities.

Bachelor’s programmes can be followed by Master’s programmes and doctoral programmes. 

At the elementary and secondary educational levels, as well as mainstream education there is also special education for children who temporarily or permanently need special assistance. This may be because of a physical or mental disability, because of serious behavioural or emotional problems or because of severe learning difficulties. Integrated education is a form of collaboration between mainstream and special education. It is intended to enable children with a disability or learning and developmental difficulties to attend classes or activities at a school for mainstream education, with support from special education. 

The adult basic education programmes given by Centres for Adult Basic Education aim to raise the general level of literacy. Centres for Adult Education organise programmes at secondary education level for adults, as well as higher vocational education programmes and specific teacher training programmes.   

Part-time art education offers programmes for young people (from the age of six or eight) and adults in the field of visual arts, music, drama and dance.

Vocational training for job-seekers and employees is organised by the VDAB, entrepreneurial b for the self-employed and SMEs by SYNTRA Flanders and agricultural training by recognised centres.

There is also a wide range of non-formal training, provided by numerous bodies in the socio-cultural educational work sector

Home education

Home education is permitted in Flanders and exists within the Flemish ‘Freedom of education’ principle. This means everyone can organise or enrol their children (of school entry age) in home education. To be in line with compulsory education regulation, parents have to submit each school year a ‘Statement of home education’ at AGODI Flanders, the Agency for Education Services (at the latest on the third school day of the school year). This agency is responsible for carrying out the compulsory education monitoring. This form has to include information on how and what kind of education the learner of school entry age will receive, which will be passed on to the Inspection. Home education teachers/parents do not have to have specific qualifications or a minimum level of education.

Home education in Flanders entails all forms of education that are not officially recognised and subsidized or financed by the Flemish, French or German community of Belgium. This means that all types of education organised by parents at home are considered home education, but international schools, European schools, private schools ( or example a number of Muslim and Jewish schools) and schools abroad (e.g. over the border for example in Germany, France or the Netherlands) and all forms of co-active home education are too. The latter is a type of education where a group of parents decides to organise a specific type of education for their children. These collective initiatives and the above mentioned private schools have the possibility to submit a collective declaration of home education for all their pupils. In this way, the parents of all their pupils no longer have to submit an individual declaration. Some children in youth institutions and observation centres follow some sort of home education too, although the majority of them is enrolled in mainstream education.

The follow-up of learner's progress is measured/monitored by 2 inspectors of the Education Inspection. The parents are obliged to contribute to the inspections by the Education Inspectorate. After two consecutive negative evaluations from the Education Inspection, parents will have to enrol their children in mainstream education – this is monitored by AGODI.

If parents want to restart home education for their children, they have to file an official request with the Education Inspectorate. A second pathway through which the learner and their learning gains are being monitored is through participation to the central exam, organised by the Central Examination Committee. Pupils must obtain the basic education certificate at the latest in the school where he or she turns thirteen before January 1st. Pupils also must obtain the first degree certificate at the latest in the school where he or she turns sixteen before January 1st. If pupils don’t succeed, they have to enrol in mainstream education. Some students are however exempt of this exams: pupils that go to school abroad, that attend European schools or other school recognised by the international baccalaureat, and students that receive their education through an institution/school that has been recognised by NARIC (National Academic and professional Recognition and Information Centre). In very exceptional cases, the School Guidance Centers (CLB) can exempt learners from the exam organised by the Central Examination Committee. This is only when it is clear the learner does not have the capacity to successfully end their school career.

AGODI makes a home education report every two years, which can be found here.

The table below gives an overview of the number of students in home education, during school year 2016 – 2017.

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