Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of vocational secondary education

Belgium - Flemish Community

6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.7Organisation of vocational secondary education

Last update: 9 June 2022

Types of institutions

The organisation of vocational secondary education (vse) largely coincides with the organisation of the other types in the second and third stage of secondary education (see 6.4). In that case a reference is made to the preceding chapters. In what follows only the specific characteristics of vocational education are expanded upon, there where they differ substantially from the ones in the other types of secondary education.

As is the case in the other types of secondary education vse is subdivided in fields of study. Every field of study groups a number of courses of study on the basis of a related content or on the basis of the need for the same infrastructure and access to the same vocational sector.

The courses of study of the third year of the third stage in vocational secondary education form a so called ‘specialisation year’.

The alternance learning and training system

The alternance training system is a specific form of vse. It contains part-time vocational secondary education (pvse), part-time training with the individual developmental pathways and the system of apprenticeships, which are geared one to another. Approximately 2% of pupils in secondary education are enrolled in the alternance training system.

Central in the system is the fulltime engagement of the youngster, who is screened in function of the various possible pathways to labour participation and who thereupon receives permanent pathway guidance.

Part-time vocational secondary education can only be organised by a Centre for Part-time Education (CPE).

Individual developmental pathways, general education within part-time vocational secondary education and support of pupil-related activities in a Centre for Part-Time Education can be organized by a Centre for Part-time Training (CPT).

The system of apprenticeships is organised by SYNTRA, the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training (see also chapter 8).

CPE, CPT and SYNTRA centres must participate in a regional consultative platform which is established within every RESOC (Regional Socio-Economic Consultative Committee) area.

Centres for part-time (vocational secondary) education

Part-time vocational secondary education is part of sector-bound education. It can only be organized in a Centre for Part-time Education (CPE). A CPE can be:

  • an autonomous institution, or
  • connected with an educational institution with fulltime mainstream tse or vse

Every CPE is part of a school community of secondary education.

The number of centres is limited as follows:

  • Community Education: 16
  • subsidised public education: 8
  • subsidized private education: 24

The government imposes specific conditions for the recognition and financing of CPEs:

  • In case the centre aims at granting final certificates which are identical to those of fulltime mainstream secondary education it must comply with the stipulations and rules determined by parliamentary act concerning the attainment targets and teaching plan.
  • A CPE must cooperate with a least one Centre for Part-time Training for the organisation of individual developmental pathways. 
  • Maximum efforts must be put in to realise a fulltime commitment for every youngster.
  • Participation in and cooperation within one or more regional consultative platforms is obligatory. 

Centres for Part-time Training

A Centre for Part-time Training (CPT) is governed by an non-profit organisation which is active in youth work or education for young workers.

A recognized CPT can offer the following forms of education:

  • individual developmental pathways;
  • general education within part-time education;
  • support of pupil-related activities in a Centre for Part-Time Education (e.g. activities such as the reception of first-year students or time-ins for youngsters who are at risk of early school leaving).

In order to be recognised and financed by the government a CPT must:

  • cooperate with a least one Centre for Part-time Education for the organisation of individual developmental pathways for certain youngsters of the CPE in question;
  • put in maximum efforts to realise a fulltime commitment for every youngster;
  • participate in and cooperate within one or more regional consultative platforms.

SYNTRA centres for training of self-employed and SME 

See first stage

Regional consultative platforms

Centres for Part-time Education, Centres for Part-time Training and SYNTRA centres are required to participate in the proceedings of a regional consultative platform. Each school community must keep in close touch with at least one regional consultative platform.

A regional consultative platform consists of at least one representative of each CPE, CPT, SYNTRA centre, VDAB ‘work shop’, as well as one pathway guidance officer of Syntra-Vlaanderen and one representative of the Pupil Guidance Centres from subsidized public education, the Pupil Guidance Centres from subsidized private education, RESOC, the Flemish Department of Education and Training and the Flemish Department of Work and Social Economy.

A regional consultative platform has the following competences:

  • Discussing of the regional offer with regard to education and training;
  • Using and exchanging expertise and knowhow
  • Discussing of the guidance, orientation and referral of youngsters to and within the alternance training system in consultation with the school communities of secondary education;
  • Taking initiative, in particular with the socio-economic actors and the social partners;
  • Qualitatively and quantitatively matching supply and demand
  • Discussing of general measures to fight problematic absences, both within the component learning as well as the component work-based learning.

Geographical accessibility

See first stage

Admission requirements and choice of school

Fulltime vocational secondary education

See second and third stage with the exception that admission by the admissions committee on the basis of age (15 years) is possible.

Alternance training system

This system is accessible for youngsters who have complied with compulsory education and who are not yet 25 years old. Youngsters are subject to part-time compulsory education from the age of 15 on the condition they have followed the first two school years of fulltime secondary education. For youngsters who do not comply with this condition the alternance training system is only accessible from the age of 16. 


A youngster needs to enrol in a Centre for Part-time vocational secondary education or with a SYNTRA-pathway guidance officer to apply for an apprenticeship within the alternance learning and training system. The latter also subscribes the youngsters as part-time learner and jobseeker with the Flemish Employment Services and Vocational Training Agency.

Screening and pathway guidance

In addition to an intake conversation a screening is organized for every youngster who enrols in a CPE. This screening takes place within 14 days following upon the enrolment. Attention is paid for labour maturity, interests, motivation and prior learning competences. The result is binding and can lead a youngster toward labour participation, a bridging project, a preparatory pathway or an individual developmental pathway.

Preparatory pathways and bridging projects

Youngsters who are not mature enough for the labour market, who are not yet willing to work, or whose labour oriented attitudes and skills need further development, can be prepared for the labour market by temporarily taking part in a preparatory pathway or a bridging project. In case even that step proves to be too big an individual developmental pathway tailored to the needs of the pupil is offered within a Centre for Part-time Training.

Preparatory pathways are organised for youngsters who do not have a clear career perspective yet and who can not yet choose for one particular programme, or for youngsters with insufficient labour attitudes and skills.

The maximum period for which a youngster can take part in a preparatory pathway is 312 hours, possibly interrupted and spread out over several school years.

Bridging projects are a form of labour participation which is organised for youngsters who are willing to work but who need to further develop their labour oriented attitudes and skills. In these projects they can acquire work experience during 800 hours.

Part-time vocational secondary education

A youngster can be granted access to a programme in part-time vocational secondary education (pvse) in case (s)he does not yet hold a final certificate of this programme in secondary education, in adult education or in the system of apprenticeships. A youngster can be granted access to a module of a programme in pvse when (s)he has not yet successfully taken this module in secondary education or in adult education.

Medical fitness can be a precondition for certain programmes for reasons of consumer protection (contact with nutritional goods) or because of the professional practice (e.g. roof worker).

A Centre for Part-time Vocational Secondary Education can refuse an enrolment in case:

  • the enrolment conditions are not met,
  • the youngster has before been definitively excluded,
  • the maximum capacity of the centre is exceeded,
  • the youngster has specific needs in the field of education, therapy and care and the capacity of the centre is not large enough to meet these needs.

A refusal must be motivated and communicated to the president of the Local Consultation Platform (see

Part-time training

A youngster can take an individual developmental pathway in a Centre for Part-time Training (CPT) after having enrolled for a certain programme in a Centre for Part-time Vocational Secondary Education (CPE). The pathway can only been taken until the end of the school year in which compulsory education ends for the pupil in question.

Prior to the start of an individual developmental pathway a motivated report needs to be drawn up. This is done by an employee of the Pupil Guidance Centre (PGC) of the CPE and is the result of the intake, the screening, data from the PGC and, possibly, data from the class council. This report contains at least the form of the individual developmental pathway to be taken as well as the start date.

The system of apprenticeships

An apprenticeship can be taken until the end of the school year in which the youngster turns 25. A programme in the system of apprenticeships takes in principle 3 years and at least 1 year. Depending on the age and prior learning a shorter programme is possible.

The practical training includes a fulltime agreement between the pupil and an entrepreneur through the agency of the pathway guidance officer.

Age levels and grouping of pupils

Fulltime vocational secondary education

See first stage 6.1.4

Part-time vocational secondary education

Part-time vocational secondary education consists of modular programmes. One module can be part of various programmes. A youngster can start a programme at any time within the school year and spread the programme over one or several school years. The duration of the modules is not laid down so that a pathway tailored to each student’s needs can be drawn up.

As a result of the above there are no stages, grades or study fields in part- time vocational secondary education.

The system of apprenticeships

See Admission requirements and choice of school

Part-time training

Youngster who have diffuclties to work or study in a labour oriented way, can make use of  the so-called individual development pathways. These will guide youngsters towards a qualification. It concerns in general socially vulnerable youngster whose behavioural, emotional and social problems are further intensified by the circumstances in which they find themselves. An individual developmental pathway strives to give them insight in their own situation and to make the problematic situation bearable.

Organisation of the school year

Fulltime vocational secondary education

See first stage 6.1.5

Part-time vocational secondary education

Part-time secondary education is offered during 40 weeks a year with 15 hours of 50 minutes of general and vocational education a week. It belongs to the competence of the Centre for Part-Time Education to divide the hours between general and vocational education. A number of deviations are allowed, amongst other in function of local circumstances.

Organisation of the school day and week

Fulltime vocational secondary education

See first stage 6.1.6

Alternance training system

Youngsters who opt for the alternance training system must commit fulltime for a system with two inextricably bound components: learning and work-based learning. This fulltime engagement is laid down in the law on compulsory education. Both components account for a weekly times table of minimal 28 hours of 50 minutes.

In part-time vocational secondary education classes are spread over maximum four half days from Monday until Friday. The word ‘maximum’ refers to the fact that for some pupils part-time education comprises 15 hours and for others, who take the general education subjects in a recognized training institution, only 8 hours. After permission is granted by the education department, the classes can be organized in another ‘rhythm’. 

Each Centre for Part-time Vocational Secondary Education must always be open for at least 9 half teaching days per week. In the period that a youngster is engaged in work-based learning, a representative of the centre must always be accessible.