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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: 27 November 2023

Types of institutions

The organization of vocational secondary education (vse) is very similar to the organization of the other forms of education in the second and third grade of secondary education (see 6.4). In that case, reference is made to the chapters above. Only the specific features of vocational education are discussed below, where it differs substantially from the other forms. 

As in other forms of education, vse is divided into areas of study. Each area of study groups together a number of courses of study based on similarity in content and the need for the same infrastructure and exit to the same professional sector. On September 1, 2019, the modernization of secondary education started in the first year of secondary education. From that date, modernization will continue year by year so that secondary education will be fully modernized by September 1, 2025. With the modernization of secondary education, the study offerings of the second and third stages are no longer divided according to areas of study, but rather according to fields of study, finalities and forms of education. A field of study groups courses of study based on content relatedness. The finality indicates the objective of the programme: an entry into the labor market (labor market finality - vse), a flow to higher education (flow finality - gse/tse/sea) or both (double finality - tse/sea). 

The alternance learning and training system

The alternance learning and training system is a form of vocational secondary education. This system is dying out, and by school year 2025-2026 will be completely encapsulated in dual learning. The current learning and work system includes part-time vocational secondary education (pvse) and apprenticeship. About 2% of secondary school students are enrolled in this system. 

Central to the alternance learning and training system is a full-time commitment of the young person who is screened according to the various possible pathways towards employment participation and then also receives ongoing pathway guidance. 

Pvse can only be organized by a Center for Part-time Education (CPE). 

Apprenticeship is organized by SYNTRA centers for training of self-employed people and SMEs. 

Centres for part-time (vocational secondary) education

A CPE can be: 

  • An autonomous institution, or 

  • Attached to an educational institution with full-time regular tse or vse. 

Each CPE is part of a comprehensive secondary school. 

The number of CPEs is capped as follows: 

  • Community education: 16 

  • Subsidized 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; 

  • Maximum efforts must be put in to realise a fulltime commitment for every youngster. 

Geographical accessibility

See first stage

Admission requirements and choice of school

Fulltime vocational secondary education

The basic principle is that a student must have passed in the underlying grade in order to be admitted. There is an exception to this for the first year of the second grade: the admissions class council may admit a student based on age (15 years). 

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 or a preparatory pathway. 

Preparatory pathways 

Youngsters who do not yet have sufficient work readiness or readiness, or whose work-oriented attitudes and skills need to be further developed, can be prepared for this by offering them additional training through a preparatory pathway. This additional training lasts as long as necessary, but as short as possible. The additional training can be provided by the school, an external organization, or an initial introduction to a workplace.

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. 

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 

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 (CPE) 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.