Since January 2020, Child and Family, Youth Welfare and part of the Flemish Agency for Persons with Disabilities (VAPH) together form a new agency of the Flemish government: Growing up. The agency joins forces to create as many opportunities as possible for all children and young people and their families growing up in Flanders and Brussels.
The services range from preventive family support, child care, to the Growth Package, foster care, adoption, youth assistance and the approach to young people committing offences. The Growth Package (formerly Child Benefit) stands for all the financial allowances provided by the Flemish government for each child in each family. The government covers the costs of bringing up children and gives families as much opportunity as possible to allow each child to grow and develop as fully as possible. By explicitly opting for an integrated, multidisciplinary approach and cooperating with many partners, we want to provide families with maximum local support. Growing up (formerly Kind en Gezin) is responsible for the implementation of the policy set out by the Flemish Minister of Welfare, Public Health and Family for, among other things, formal child care for babies and toddlers and for the care of schoolchildren in primary school (Primary school = kindergarten + primary school).
There are a number of rules (the same legislation for group and family care) that child care must comply with in order to be in order with the permit, the supervision certificate, the recognition and/or with the conditions for obtaining and continuing to receive a subsidy. These rules are there to provide safe and quality care for both the staff members in the childcare centre and the parents and their children. The Growing Up Agency monitors whether childcare complies with the rules on the basis of documents and reports from the Health Care Inspectorate (see: https://www.kindengezin.be/kinderopvang/sector-babys-en-peuters/regelgev... legal and https://www.kindengezin.be/kinderopvang/sector-schoolkinderen) and complies with the subsidy conditions.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
The Health Care Inspectorate
The Health Care Inspectorate is also part of the Department of Welfare, Public Health and Family of the Flemish government, but is an agency other than Growing up. Within the Flemish Community, the Care Inspectorate is responsible for the supervision and inspection of healthcare institutions and welfare facilities. A Department of Care Inspectorate is specifically responsible for inspecting childcare facilities for babies and toddlers and primary school children.
Care Inspectorate goes on site to carry out its core tasks. These are:
- Supervising compliance with the regulations. Care Inspectorate ensures that a reception location carries out its tasks correctly, in
- accordance with the conditions attached to the subsidy or permit, the certificate of supervision, the accreditation;
- Clarifying the content of the regulations to the reception locations;
- Referring institutions to where information and/or support can be found.
In doing so, Zorginspectie tries to improve the quality of the services provided by the childcare facilities, without saying how the childcare facilities should operate (this is not part of the duties of Zorginspectie).
In order to be able to carry out its inspection tasks, Zorginspectie has a number of supervisory rights and obligations laid down by decree. These can be found in the Supervision Decree (www.departementwvg.be/nieuws/zorginspectie-nieuw-toezichtdecreet-vanaf-1...). The main requirement to be met by the Health Care Inspectorate is independence, in order to avoid the risk of a conflict of interests. This means that Care Inspectorate is in no way involved in decisions regarding the granting, recognition, attestation or subsidy of childcare facilities. As a matter of principle, Zorginspectie does not take on an advisory or mediating role either.
After the inspection visit, the childcare centre receives a preliminary report of the results of the visit. This report contains infringements, shortcomings and points for attention. An advice may also be formulated for Growing up. The childcare centre organiser has 14 calendar days to respond to inaccuracies in this preliminary report. Care Inspectorate then has 14 calendar days to process any response. If the organiser fails to respond to the provisional report within the set period, the report will become definitive.
The final report (and any reaction from the childcare organiser) will be sent to Growing up. This is where the task of the Health Care Inspectorate stops. Care Inspectorate does not pronounce on the possible consequences of an inspection for a childcare facility and is not responsible for enforcement. Zorginspectie inspects and reports on this inspection to Growing up. From then on, further communication regarding the inspection report will take place with Growing up. This segregation of duties ensures that organisers of child care initiatives do not turn to Care Inspectorate, but to Growing up, for access to their file and for questions and advice regarding the inspection reports. A division of functions between inspection and reporting on the one hand, and deciding on consequences on the other, enables Zorginspectie to fulfil its task as objectively, impartially and independently as possible.
Growing up decides on the possible consequences of the findings of Care Inspectorate. This means: if there are infringements, shortcomings or points for attention in the Care Inspectorate's report, Opgroeien expects the organiser himself to take the initiative to put everything right. The organiser is, however, asked to draw up a plan of approach to address the shortfalls or infringements and to provide this to Opgroeien. Growing up then follows up on this.
This can be done in several steps:
- Reminder: this follows if Growing up notices that it takes too long before the childcare centre takes action or if the childcare centre organiser shows too little sense of responsibility. The organiser is reminded to put everything in order by a certain date.
- If everything is still not in order after this date, the childcare centre will inform the organiser of the consequences of this for the childcare. After this notification, the organiser will be given the opportunity to explain his point of view verbally or in writing.
- Decision and notification: if there is still no progress in the matter, Growing up will take a decision to impose one or more administrative measures and/or a fine on the organiser. The organiser has the right to contest this decision of Growing up. A fine will be imposed if supervision is prevented, if childcare is organised without a permit, or if conditions from the regulations are not respected.
Possible administrative measures are:
- Changing the permit, in particular reducing the number of childcare places (e.g. if the infrastructure is no longer sufficient for the number of places);
- Suspension of a permit: temporary closure of the reception facility (e.g. if there are serious indications that the identified breach(s) endangers the safety and health of the children);
- Lifting of a permit: the reception facility must be permanently closed (e.g. if an infringement has not been solved within the suspension period);
- Recovery of the grant (e.g. if the grant is not used for the purpose for which it is paid);
- Reduction of the grant (e.g. if the required occupancy of the places receiving a grant is not achieved);
- Temporary suspension of the grant (e.g. during the suspension of a permit for that particular reception location);
- Withdrawal of the grant (e.g. if the infringement that led to the suspension of the permit is not remedied within the prescribed period).
- The inspection reports of Zorginspectie are not (yet) automatically made publicly available, but anyone who wishes to do so (e.g. parents looking for a childcare facility) can request inspection reports via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Timing of the inspections
The Healthcare Inspectorate carries out inspections on its own initiative or at the request of Growing up (e.g. as a result of a complaint or as a result of an enforcement that has been initiated).
In principle, Healthcare Inspectorate will visit at least once or twice within a period of one year after the start up to check the operation. In the group childcare centre with a permit, Care Inspectorate will visit the centre before the start of childcare. This is a visit that takes place at the request of the organiser when he wants to apply for a permit from Growing up. The Care Inspectorate then checks whether the infrastructure is suitable for childcare. After that, childcare locations will be inspected on a regular basis. This inspection is always unannounced and can take place at any time of the day (after all, the childcare must meet all conditions at all times). There is one exception: an initial inspection visit to newly started childcare facilities is announced. If the reception location does not grant access to Care Inspectorate, Growing up may suspend the permit.
Course of the inspection visit
Each inspector starts his/her visit with an explanation of the working method and the course of the visit. This is followed by an interview with the person in charge and/or the child care worker(s) about the day-to-day operation of the childcare centre. Subsequently, the inspector will observe the functioning in the living group(s) and visit the reception rooms. Furthermore, the inspector examines a number of documents (e.g. the registration lists of the children, registration lists of the child counsellors, the internal regulations of the childcare centre,...). Finally, the inspector discusses his/her findings with the responsible and/or child care worker(s). At that moment, the discussion partner can nuance or explain certain findings of the inspector. The visit is then concluded. The rule in all this is that the inspector will try to hinder the daily operation as little as possible.
Pedagogical quality as focal point of the inspection visits
The pedagogical quality is an important part of the broad operation of a childcare facility and is therefore in any case one of the quality aspects that are checked during a visit by the inspectors of Care Inspection. Since 2017, Care Inspectorate has had a specific instrument for this purpose, the monitoring instrument (www.kindengezin.be/kinderopvang/sector-babys-en-peuters/pedagogische-aan...). (see also chapter 4).
The monitoring instrument monitors 6 dimensions of pedagogical quality:
- Well-being or the degree to which the children feel good about themselves;
- Involvement or the degree to which the children are concentrated;
- Emotional support: How do children's supervisors deal with the children (is attention paid to the child's perspective?) and how do children interact with each other in the peer group? How do the children's supervisors ensure that the children feel emotionally safe in the care?
- Educational support or the extent to which the adults challenge the children, promote their development and provide language support;
- Surroundings: What does the (play) environment look like? Are the children challenged by the activities on offer and the available material? How does the day go and which activities do the children do (supervised or unaccompanied)?
- Respect for diversity and cooperation with families: on the spot, a survey by the person in charge or a child counsellor investigates whether and how the wishes of parents and the diversity of families in society are taken into account in the activities.
The first 5 dimensions are scored after observation in a living group. The 6th dimension is scored after an on-site survey of the responsible person or childcare worker.
Each dimension of pedagogical quality is scored from 1 to 4 by the inspector.
- Score 1 = insufficient
- Score 2 = barely sufficient
- Score 3 = Good
- Score 4 = Excellent
With a score of 3 and 4 (regardless of the number), the reception location from Growing up will receive a rating for the quality delivered. With a score of 2 (regardless of the number): the reception location from Growing up is asked to make an effort to improve and to raise each score of 2 to a score of 3. The organiser determines the approach for improvements. What and how the organiser does this is not actively monitored from Growing up. Healthcare Inspectorate can, however, ask how things stand with the efforts made during a follow-up visit. Score 1 (regardless of the number): a follow-up trajectory is started from Growing up, just like for all other shortcomings or infringements (see above) in order to improve the pedagogical quality.
The collection of the monitoring instrument takes place in 1 living group in a location, but because it is not feasible to collect the monitoring instrument in 1 visit (duration 2h to 2.5h), the collection of the entire instrument is spread over two visits. There is no fixed order between inspection visits. Reporting on the scores collected on the basis of the monitoring tool shall be included in a separate section of the inspection report. The monitoring tool can be taken at any time of the day. After all, every reception location must provide high-quality childcare at all times.
Self-evaluation of pedagogical quality by childcare institutions
In principle, all childcare organisers are required by law to systematically evaluate the operation, and therefore the pedagogical quality. They choose the way in which they do this. For more information, see: https://www.kindengezin.be/memoq/default.jsp Since 2017, a self-evaluation tool (see also Chapter 4) has been available for the reception locations of babies and toddlers to check, assess and promote the pedagogical quality at their own reception locations. The use of this instrument is not compulsory, but it is recommended because this instrument can be used to look at pedagogical quality through the same glasses as the Health Care Inspectorate inspectors. After all, the self-evaluation instrument looks at the same 6 dimensions of pedagogical quality. This helps the reception centres that were visited by the Care Inspectorate, if necessary, to focus on the findings of the inspection visit with regard to pedagogical quality.
Each dimension in the self-evaluation instrument has the same structure and contains three steps:
- Step 1 is an exploratory phase. There, an answer is sought to the question "how does my reception work for this dimension? This question can be answered by observation, filling in statements or answering questions, or by a combination of these three;
- The first step helps to make observations in step 2 and to gain a focused insight into the strengths and points of attention in one's own reception for the dimension in question;
- In step 3, a plan of approach is drawn up based on the findings and action is taken.
Basic and secundary education
The Flemish Community’s educational inspectorate works on behalf of the Flemish government and is responsible for overseeing the quality of education. The inspectorate has competence for elementary, secondary and part-time arts education, boarding schools and CPGs. It is also competent for secondary adult education and adult basic education. It is not competent for higher education, including higher vocational education, or for the initial teacher training programmes. The inspectorate for religion/ethics [see 184.108.40.206] and for urban and provincial education [see 220.127.116.11] are dealt with elsewhere.
Organisation of the inspectorate The decree of 8 May 2009 introduced extensive changes to the organisation of the educational inspectorate and scrapped the classification into different educational levels. Under the leadership of a single inspector-general (IG), the corps of inspectors now consists solely of around 160 inspectors (working from offices in their own homes) and 8 coordinating inspectors (CIs). The coordinating inspectors together form the Board of Inspectors and control three services. The Implementation Service carries out the tasks described in the Quality decree and any additional tasks assigned by the Minister. The Development Service develops and refines concepts and tools for assessment and for additional tasks. This service is also responsible for monitoring and information management. There is also a supporting Staff Service, consisting of 11 management staff members. The Staff Service is responsible for planning, education and training, communication and so on. An assessment office is responsible for following up on and handling the assessments. Financial management, HRM and religion/ethics fall under the direct responsibility of the inspector-general.
The division between the various offices has not been defined. From now on, the inspectorate will be allocated a lump sum (fixed by the Flemish Government on an annual basis) by means of which it will be able to use professional experience and competences in a more targeted fashion. However, a number of guarantees in terms of the inspectorate's balanced composition were imposed by decree.
At least 35 % of its members must have been recruited from within community education or subsidised official education and at least another 35 % of its members must have a subsidised private education background.
In addition, minima have been defined in terms of relevant professional experience of staff:
- Mainstream Elementary education 40 %
- Mainstream secondary education 26 %
- Adult Education or Adult Basic Education 3 %
- Coordination of pupil guidance or CPG 2 %
- Artistic education or art subjects 2 %
- Special education 7 %
The organisation has also been given leeway to call on external experts for its full school inspections (e.g. at schools dealing with complex health and safety issues at work).
The educational inspectorate and the pedagogical counselling services meet together regularly on a permanent consultation body in the light of their tasks. Where the consultation relates to adult education, VOCVO (the Flemish Support Centre for Adult Education; see 18.104.22.168) is also involved.
Tasks of the inspectorate
The inspectorate shall invariably issue its advice on whether or not any new institutions seeking accreditation or any institution seeking to have a new programme component accredited have/has met the necessary accreditation criteria. Once an application has been received, the inspectorate will conduct an on-site inspection to check whether the accreditation criteria have been complied with. Following this on-site inspection, the inspectorate presents its report, featuring its accreditation advice, to the Flemish Government. This report must be published within six months of the application, if not the inspectorate will be deemed to have issued a favourable advice.
The inspectorate carries out full inspections of the educational institutions (see 22.214.171.124). Every institution is subjected to a full inspection at least once every 10 years.
The full-inspection reports, follow-up reports and any ensuing advice on the accreditation of institutions are governance documents governed by the Decree of 26 March 2004 concerning administrative openness. Since 1 January 2007, the full-inspection reports can be consulted on the inspectorate's website: http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/doorlichtingsverslagen/
The inspectorate is also in charge of monitoring the quality of training and non-formal training programmes organised by institutions which are not classified as educational institutions but which offer courses that nonetheless lead to diplomas, certificates or modular certificates that have the same civic effect as those officially issued by the educational institutions.
Every year, the inspectorate issues a report on its activities in which it also discusses one or more qualitative aspects of the education system. The Flemish Government subsequently presents this report to the Flemish Parliament. For some years now, this report has been published under the name “Onderwijsspiegel (Mirror of Education)” (see 126.96.36.199). http://onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/inspectie/publicaties/
The inspectorate has no authority to monitor how a pedagogical or agogic project is fleshed out or to check the pedagogical, agogic or artistic guidance methods used. Neither does it have any powers to inspect philosophy-of-life courses.
A code of professional practice is currently being developed for the members of the inspectorate.
Core legislation regarding the inspectorate, the educational development division and the pedagogical counselling services
- Decree of 1 December 1993 concerning the inspection and guidance of philosophy-of-life courses.
- Decision of the Flemish Government of 15 December 1993 implementing the Decree of 1 December 1993 concerning the inspection and guidance of philosophy-of-life courses.
- Decree of 8 May 2009 concerning the quality of education.
- Decision of the Flemish government of 24 April 2009 establishing the internal autonomous agency 'Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Training'.
- Flemish government decree of 01/10/2010] implementing the decree of 8 May 2009 on the quality of education with regard to the way in which some of the inspectorate’s powers are executed (B.S. 26/11/2010)
- Flemish government decree of 01/10/2010] implementing the decree of 8 May 2009 on the quality of education with regard to the reference framework for the inspectorate (BS13/01/2011). The CIPO reference framework is described in Annex 1 to this decree. However, it can be consulted more easily on the educational inspectorate website.
Inspection of and guidance for courses related to religion and ethics
The Constitution guarantees all pupils, who are by law deemed to be of school age, two teaching periods per week of moral/ethical or religious education at school as part of the curriculum. These subjects are by no means subjected to any form of government control – as long as the basic democratic principles of society are respected. In 2013, it was decided that the curricula of ideological subjects must be tested against the international and constitutional human and children's rights, and against the attainment targets and developmental objectives. The latter means that the realisation of the developmental objectives and attainment levels may not be hindered by content from the curricula of the ideological subjects.
The recognised bodies of the recognised religions (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant Evangelical, Anglican, Israeli and Islamic religions) and the recognised association of the non-confessional community specify the operations of the inspectorate and the guidance for the religions concerned and for non-confessional ethics. They are moreover in charge of the curricula of these subjects and the in-service training of the teachers concerned. They are not covered by the regulations on counsellors and inspectors for subjects not related to religion and ethics (see below: the quality decree), but have their own decree: the decree of 17 July 1991 on the inspection and counselling services. They are managed and recorded by one and the same organisation (sometimes: person).
The appointed inspectors-advisors have amongst others the following tasks and responsibilities:
- checking that the timetable and the statements regarding the choice of religion or non-confessional ethics are adhered to;
- checking the learning tools;
- checking the habitability, didactical suitability and hygiene of class rooms;
- issuing policy advice;
- checking that the curricula are implemented and supervising the standard of education;
- providing external support and evaluating the vocational and pedagogical competences of the teachers in question and stimulating initiatives to enhance professional quality;
- developing initiatives to enhance the quality of education of the subject of study concerned and guarding and stimulating the pedagogical project which was adapted to accommodate the philosophy of life within the subject of study;
- any other tasks assigned to them under the terms of laws and decrees.
The inspectors-advisors furnish information to:
- the recognised bodies of the recognised religions and the recognised association for non-confessional ethics on the contents, the curricula and the vocational competence of teachers;
- the senior chief-inspector – who heads the inspectorate, on the application of the statutory and administrative regulations.
In contrast to the inspectorate, the offices of the members of the philosophy-of-life courses inspectorate and guidance teams will remain level-of-education dependent.
The inspectorate advisors unite in the Commission on Courses related to Religion and Ethics. This consultative body deals with all aspects of the inspection and guidance of ideological subjects: subject content and pedagogy, practical organisation of the school year, problems in guidance or inspection,.... But this commission also formulates policy recommendations concerning ideological education. One of their most important products concerns the interdisciplinary competences (ILC). The ILCs are part of the need for more dialogue and cooperation between the different worldviews at school. The inter-faith dialogue should lead to understanding and respect and to breaking through and preventing prejudice and hostility. All teachers of philosophical subjects are expected to work on these 24 competences, which include knowledge, skills and attitudes.
In 2007, the Commission Structural Consultation on courses related to religion and ethics and Government or SOLO was set up. In addition to the advisors, representatives of the Ministry of Education and Training and the inspector general of the Education Inspectorate are members of this body. In this way, the flow of information between those responsible for the ideological subjects on the one hand and the educational administration and inspectorate on the other is guaranteed. In recent years, cooperation between the regular inspection and the inspectorate for ideological subjects has been encouraged, for example in the areas of habitability, safety and hygiene. The inspectorate's code of ethics also applies to the inspectors of ideological subjects. In the same consultation, it was also agreed that as of 2019, the inspectors-consultants will provide an annual report of their activities to the Inspector General, with a view to increasing transparency.
The Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Grants (AHOVOKS)
The Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Study Grants is the result of the merger of the Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Training and the Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education and Study Grants. AHOVOKS is an agency in the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training. AHOVOKS formally started on 1 July 2015.
AHOVOKS' mission is to guarantee and stimulate qualification-oriented, lifelong and life-wide learning for all. The agency's mission is to guarantee and promote qualification-oriented, lifelong and life-wide learning for all:
1° Providing high-quality, transparent, and accessible services to institutions and staff in higher education and adult education:
- provision of services to staff: payment of salaries and management of staff files;
- provision of services to the institutions: financing and organisation.
2° The provision of high-quality, transparent, and accessible services to citizens for:
- the granting of study grants;
- the recognition of equivalence of study and qualification certificates;
- the organisation of examinations with a view to obtaining an admission certificate, study certificate or qualification certificate;
- awarding grants to adult education students.
3° In close cooperation with stakeholders in the field of education and in the labour market, guarantee the high-quality and transparent processes that lead to
- educational objectives: On the website onderwijsdoelen.be you will find all the goals set by the government for primary education, secondary education, part-time art education, adult education and higher education.
- vocational and educational qualifications;
- study programmes;
- EVC standards.
4° The quality support of control and professional bodies in the autonomous implementation of their competences:
- support of the government commissioners at the universities of applied sciences and universities;
- organisation of the Council for Disputes concerning study progress decisions.
To carry out its tasks, the agency focuses on maximum digitisation and data exchange with a view to efficiency and client-orientation. Especially the tasks concerning the development of educational goals are important for quality assurance in Flemish education.
A support service supports the administrator-general and the agency's departments in the areas of planning and control, personnel policy, communication policy, facilities policy, ICT, finance and budget, both strategic and operational. The Higher & Adult Education Department is responsible for providing high-quality, transparent and accessible services to institutions and staff in higher education and adult education:
- staff services: payment of salaries and management of staff files;
- institutional services: funding and organisation;
- collecting and managing data on students and trainees, their enrolments and results;
- awarding grants to adult education learners.
The NARIC & Examination Board department provides high-quality, transparent and accessible services to citizens:
- recognising equivalence of study and qualification certificates;
- organising examinations with a view to obtaining an admission certificate, study or qualification certificate.
The Qualifications & Curriculum department is responsible for high-quality and transparent processes that lead to the creation of
- educational objectives;
- professional and educational qualifications, study programmes and EVC standards.
The department does this in close cooperation with stakeholders from the field of education and the labour market.
The study grants department provides high-quality, transparent and accessible services to citizens by awarding school and study grants. The Appeals & Control Bodies department is responsible for the high-quality support of control and appeal bodies in the autonomous implementation of their powers:
- the government commissioners in higher education
- the organisation of the Council for contestation of study progress decisions.
Specifically on educational objectives
AHOVOKS is responsible for the development and updating of educational objectives in primary education (nursery and primary education), secondary education, adult education and part-time art education. The Education Inspectorate examines at school level whether the educational objectives are being achieved. The survey will examine at system level whether the educational objectives have been achieved.
Pre-primary school education
Pre-primary school education works with developmental goals. These are minimum objectives that must be pursued by pre-schoolers. Developmental objectives are divided into learning areas:
- Physical education
- People and society
- Musical education
- Science and technology
- Mathematical initiation
Mainstream primary education
In primary education, there are attainment targets. These are minimum objectives that a school must achieve among the group of pupils. Attitudinal attainment targets should not be achieved but pursued.
Learning outcomes are subject-specific or cross-curricular. The learning area-specific attainment targets are classified into these learning areas:
- Physical education
- People and society
- Musical education
- Science and technology
Special needs primary education
Special needs primary education (= nursery and primary education) works with developmental objectives per type. A school team selects the goals it considers appropriate for a pupil or pupil group to pursue. This selection is an important step in drawing up an action plan.
There are developmental objectives for the following types:
- Type of basic offer
- Type 2
- Type 7
- For type 3, there are no development goals but there is a service document.
Mainstream secondary education first degree
Modernised educational objectives apply to pupils in the first grade. There are various types of educational objectives (attainment levels, attitudes and expansion objectives) and statutes (to be achieved by a pupil group, an individual pupil, a particular group in need of more challenge, and to be pursued) for the a and b streams.
The new first-degree final attainment levels are not divided into subjects but into key competences. There are two types of key competences:
- Key competences with partly transversal attainment levels
- Key competences with content attainment levels
Mainstream secondary education second degree
The second stage of secondary education is subject to attainment targets. These attainment targets are minimum objectives that lead to social participation and personal development. In addition to attainment targets, some disciplines also have attainment targets derived from the specific attainment targets (third degree). The specific learning outcomes are intended to prepare pupils for higher education. The attainment targets for the second degree are divided into subjects.
Mainstream secondary education third degree
The third stage of secondary education is subject to attainment targets. These attainment targets are minimum objectives that lead to social participation and personal development. In addition to attainment targets, some study programmes also have specific attainment targets. These are objectives formulated with a view to further education (higher education). The attainment targets for the third degree are divided into subjects.
Special needs secondary education
Special needs secondary education works for forms 1, 2 and 3 with developmental objectives per form of education. A school team selects the goals it considers appropriate for a pupil or pupil group to pursue. This selection is an important step in drawing up an action plan. The educational objectives for form 4 are identical to the attainment targets, the development targets and the specific attainment targets of the corresponding level of ordinary secondary education. They are being modernised along with ordinary secondary education.
Primary education offers basic forms of reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. The objectives are described through attainment levels and basic competences. In secondary adult education, there are attainment levels and basic competences for general supplementary education. They include basic education which, in combination with vocational training, leads to a secondary education diploma. The educational objectives of the other programmes in the field of general secondary adult education are identical to the attainment levels and specific attainment levels of the corresponding programmes in full-time secondary education.
Part-time art education
In the first, second and third grades, basic competences are used. In order to be able to distinguish the basic competences per degree, the context, autonomy and responsibility are described in all sets. Together with the verbs used and the tasks described, they indicate the minimum objectives for each grade. In the fourth degree, professional qualifications are used.
Pedagogical counselling services (PCSs)
The pedagogical guidance services (PCSs) are support services organised by non-profit associations set up by the educational umbrella organisations. One PEP can be granted per umbrella organisation.
The PCSs have seven tasks laid down in the Quality Decree. Some of the tasks are primarily aimed at strengthening the school's policy (policy-making capacity), while others focus on the professionalisation of teaching staff. The PCSs work both supply- and demand-driven. This means that schools can subscribe to an offer of support from the PCSs, but can also address specific pedagogical-didactical questions to the PCS of their umbrella organisation. In concrete terms, the pedagogical guidance services have the following tasks:
- support the educational institutions in question in the realisation of their own pedagogical or agogical project and support the pupil guidance centres (PGCs) in the realisation of their own mission and their own counselling project;
- support the educational institutions and the PGCs in question in promoting their educational quality or the quality of their pupil guidance and in their development into a professional learning organisation by :
- promoting networking and supporting networks;
- supporting or training managers;
- supporting the professional competence of staff within an institution and across institutions, with a particular focus on new recruits and staff with specific assignments;
- strengthening the policy-making capacity of institutions;
- support the quality management of institutions;
- at the request of the institution's management, support and guidance the institution in developing the action points identified following an audit;
- providing, stimulating and supporting educational innovations;
- providing and managing supply-oriented in-service training activities, including in-service training for managers;
- consulting with different actors in education at different levels on the quality of education and the quality of guidance;
- participating in the management or follow-up of support initiatives organised or subsidised by the Flemish Government with the objective of supporting institutions, teachers or supervisors.
Every pedagogical guidance service draws up a guidance plan every three years for the next three school years and communicate it to the institutions and to the Flemish Government.
Every year, the pedagogical guidance services report to the Flemish Government on the activities of the previous school year, including a financial account of the operating resources received. Each pedagogical counselling service draws up a code of practice and make it known to the institutions and their staff members. Each pedagogical guidance service systematically examines and monitor its own quality. The pedagogical counselling service chooses the way in which it does this.
The establishment plan of the pedagogical guidance services shall be established per school year, separately for:
- primary education;
- secondary education, adult education and part-time art education (jointly);
- the PGCs.
The PCSs also receive operating funds, with a combined annual budget of 84,000 euros for the support of the equal opportunities policy.
In order to organise in-service training and guidance activities for their own staff members and for staff members of the institutions they accompany, the pedagogical guidance services receive a combined annual amount of €1,148,000. For the organisation of in-service training in job description and evaluation in the institutions they supervise, the pedagogical guidance services receive a combined annual amount of €430,000.
More detailed information on pedagogical guidance can be found at the educational umbrella organisations:
- PCS of the Community Education of the Flemish Community;
- PCS Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen;
- PCS OVSG for cities and municipalities;
- PCS POV for provincial education Flanders;
- PCS FOPEM , the Federation of Independent Pluralist Emancipatory Methods Schools;
- VONAC for the Flemish Education Consultation Platform for the liberal schools or VOOP;
- PCS Steinerscholen for the Federation of Steinerschools in Flanders;
- NaPCO, for the Protestant schools (or IPCO). The latter four together form the Consultation of Small Education Providers or OKO.
The current Minister of Education has initiated a debate on the core tasks of the PCSs. This may lead to a revision of the aforementioned decree tasks in the quality decree. The revision will, among other things, take into account the results of the evaluations of the PCSs(see below).
Association of network-related pedagogical counselling services
The Association of network-related pedagogical counselling services (SNPB) was established as a non-profit organisation on 26 June 2006. The cooperation between the counselling services was initiated by the political government at that time. SNPB received long-term project subsidies for specific support themes: language, ICT policy, support for pupils with specific needs, etc. In practice, the SNPB was a partnership of the four 'large' pedagogical guidance services. OKO (Consultation Small Education Providers) participated in some projects. On 1 January 2015, the operation of the non-profit organisation SNPB was discontinued. The resources of SNPB will be partly divided among the individual PBDs who will also continue to work on the specific themes.
Evaluationcommittee of the pedagogical counselling bodies
At least once every six years, and for the first time during school year 2012-2013, the workings of the pedagogical counselling services, the permanent resource centres, and, if applicable, of the Association of Network-Related Pedagogical Counselling Services will be evaluated on a six-yearly basis at least. These evaluations will be conducted by a committee appointed by the Flemish Government.
This committee seats members of the academic world, representatives from the institutions and officials from the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training. It will also seat a number of external quality-assurance experts. The representatives from the academic world and the institutions will be appointed upon proposal from the Flemish Education Council. The conclusions of the committee's evaluation will be presented to the Flemish Parliament.
A first review of the functioning of the PSPs and the SNPB partnership will take place in 2013. In 2018, the same committee of experts examined to what extent and how the PCSs and the POC (see below) had implemented the 2013 recommendations. A report was written for each individual PBD, mainly intended for internal quality development. In addition, the committee summarised a number of generally applicable conclusions and recommendations in an overall report.
Permanent resource centres within the CPGs
The decree of 1 December 1998 on the CPGs obliged the funded centres, subsidised public centres and independent centres to create a permanent support unit for network-specific support.
The Decree of 8 May 2009 concerning the quality of education stipulates that the role of the permanent resource centres is to boost the professionalization of CPG staff. To that end, they must come to an arrangement with the pedagogical counselling services within their own central network.
Every three years, they draft a counselling plan which they present to the CPGs and the Flemish Government. They report back to the Flemish Government on an annual basis about their activities of the previous school year and furnish an account of how their operational resources were used. They must also draw up a protocol and systematically monitor the quality of the services they provide. They are free to choose how they go about this.
Inspectorate and counselling services of cities and provinces
Some of the larger cities (Antwerp and Ghent) and provinces (Antwerp, Limburg and Oost-Vlaanderen) pay their own ‘inspectorate staff’ and/or counselling service. These should in fact be seen as senior officials who act on behalf of these authorities, in their role of organising body of subsidised official education (see 188.8.131.52).
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
Job descriptions and evaluation in elementary, secondary, part-time artistic and adult education
The evaluation process must be a constructive and positive process, not a means to pursue a repressive staff policy; it cannot be a snapshot in time but should be an all-encompassing process. Reception and guidance of teachers is a very important aspect of this.
The evaluation and support process bases itself on individualised job descriptions. Job descriptions are mandatory for each member of staff appointed for 104 days or more, but may also be drawn up for staff appointed for a shorter period of time. Job descriptions must be drawn up by the institution employing the member of staff in question, and for every office the person holds. Consequently, members of staff can have several job descriptions.
The organising body or the schools community (subsidised education) and the board of principals (GO!) negotiate the general arrangements regarding job description in the local committee responsible for the institution.
The subject-specific aspects featuring in the job descriptions for teachers teaching philosophy-of-life education must also be approved by the competent philosophy-of-life body.
Evaluations are only valid for 4 school years at the most. After that, a new evaluation must be carried out.
Contents of the job descriptions
Job descriptions consist of three parts:
- the tasks and institution-related assignments and the manner in which the member of staff must carry them out;
- the school-specific objectives;
- the rights and obligations regarding continuing education and further training.
Personal and development objectives can be added after a performance interview or on the basis of agreements made at the end of an evaluation period.
When the individualised job descriptions are being drafted, the relevant general agreements made at organising-body or schools-community level and the provisos of the work rules, and in the case of subsidised education, the terms and conditions of employment, must also be taken into account.
The job descriptions for Elementary education staff may not comprise tasks that have been laid down in the so-called negative list, included in the Decision of the Flemish Government concerning the assignments of elementary-education staff of 17 June 1997, and must give due consideration to the performance regulation laid down in the Elementary education Decree (BaO/97/8). Some of the tasks which may not be included in the job descriptions are e.g. home visits, bus transport and supervision and maintenance of equipment.
In secondary education the main assignment, i.e. teaching, takes central stage.
- This main assignment – the integrated-teacher assignment – comprises tasks such as:
- planning and preparing classes,
- teaching per se,
- class-specific pupil guidance,
- evaluation of pupils (tests, homework, exams),
- In-service training, consultation and cooperation with the school board (staff meetings and pedagogical study days), colleagues (class councils and departments), the CPG (follow-up of pupils) and parents (parent-teacher meetings).
- In addition, secondary-education teachers may also be asked to perform a limited number of school-related tasks, such as:
- assuming responsibilities other than teaching (head of department, organising cultural and other types of activities, class tutoring...),
- taking on some specific role or assignment (welcoming new pupils, mentoring, coordination tasks),
- replacing absent teachers and providing extra supervision
- representing the school in certain bodies outside of school (umbrella organisations, town meetings, etc.).
- The School Head compiles a list of these tasks and presents it to the local negotiation committee for discussion. If these school-related tasks represent a major part of the teacher’s assignment, he may be (fully or partially) relieved from his teaching duties. The criteria on the basis of which teachers may be exempted from performing school-related tasks are also negotiated within the local negotiation committee. This modus operandi should guarantee a fair task distribution and a reduction in work pressure.
Each member of staff has two evaluators who work at the same institution (or institution appertaining to the same organising body, in the case of subsidised education) as the member of staff being evaluated. The role of the first evaluator is an essential one as he is in charge of guidance and coaching. Therefore, he should have a higher hierarchical ranking than the member of staff being evaluated. In GO!, evaluators are appointed by the School Head. whereas in subsidised education, they are appointed by the organising body. Training for evaluators is recommended and the government specifically provides funding for this. The subject-specific aspects of philosophy-of-life education are evaluated by the competent body of the ideology in question. All other aspects are assessed by the normal evaluator.
Any evaluation process starts off with the appointment of evaluators, followed by the drafting of the job description and the evaluation process itself, including the staff member’s coaching and guidance. This results in an evaluation report and any consequences that might ensue.
Normally speaking, the job description is drafted by the first evaluator in consultation with the member of staff concerned. If no consensus can be reached, the organising body takes the final decision. The first evaluator signs the individualised job description and the member of staff signs for acknowledgement.
In a performance interview (which is held at regular intervals) the evaluator and member of staff are on an equal footing.
During the evaluation interview – which always rounds off any evaluation period – the performance of the member of staff is discussed on the basis of the pre-set job description. This always results in a descriptive and conclusive evaluation report.
In the event the evaluation report would exceptionally produce the score 'insufficient', the member of staff in question can lodge an appeal with the evaluation appeal board. Appeals have a suspensive effect. If the ultimate ‘insufficient’ does not lead to dismissal, the member of staff must be re-evaluated after a minimum of 12 months of active service. Dismissal only applies to that particular office at that particular institution. The terms depend on the office held, and on whether the appointment was a temporary or permanent one. Temporary members of staff, appointed for a definite period of time are dismissed once they have received the grade ‘insufficient’ on their evaluation report. Permanently appointed staff are dismissed once they have received 2 consecutive final markings 'insufficient' or if they have scored 'insufficient' three times during their career.
The evaluation appeal board has been established alongside the appeal bodies for disciplinary matters. It jointly seats representatives of employees and employers and consists of 3 chambers (one for GO!, one for subsidised private education and one for Subsidized Official Education). It is chaired by a magistrate. The evaluation appeal board examines whether the evaluation was carried out in a careful and qualitative fashion and rules on the reasonableness of the sanction. Its decisions require a simple majority and must be well-motivated.
The decrees of 27 March 1991 (on the legal status of staff), the elementary education decree of 25 February 1997 and the Flemish government decree of 10 June 1997, the decree of 13 July 2007. WeTwijs – job description and evaluation
Internal evaluation in elementary and secondary education
Internationally, there is a growing trend in schools in favour of critical self-examination and a more systematic appraisal of the achievement of goals set by the schools themselves. The performance of self-evaluations has also become an important aspect of quality monitoring within Flemish education in recent years. Self-evaluation looks at whether the elementary or secondary school is meeting the goals that it has formulated on the basis of its pedagogical project. By contrast, the primary concern in an assessment by the educational inspectorate is whether the school is satisfying the minimum expectations that society has with respect to schools. Until recently, the vast majority of self-evaluations were initiated by the schools themselves, without any compulsion on the part of the government, which mainly played a stimulatory role in this regard.
The Decree concerning equal educational opportunities I (GOK-I) (B.S. 14/09/02) grants, for the first time, the status of statutory expectation to self-evaluations of schools. Elementary and secondary schools which can bank on GOK resources are expected to carry out a self-evaluation of the policy implemented during the lifetime of the Equal Educational Opportunities Policy. However, it is part of the school’s autonomy how they will concretely interpret this self-evaluation.
Since the decree on the quality of education (B.S. 28/08/09), educational institutions and CPGs have had the task of conducting a qualitative policy independently. However, this independent policy must take account of the policy context defined by the government in the regulations. Moreover, every institution should systematically evaluate its own quality. The institution may decide for itself how to do this.
For their internal quality assurance, schools may make use of numerous tools that have been developed with a view to the performance of self-evaluation in elementary and secondary education. The diversity of self-evaluation tools is due to differences with regard to educational level, the aspects to be covered by self-evaluation, the methods employed, the functions of self-evaluation, the support received by schools and so on. Schools thus determine for themselves how to shape their internal quality assurance, how to proceed with it and what tools to use in doing so.
Offer of for schools
Since 2009, in order to increase the policy-making capacity of schools based on relevant information about the level of development and progress of pupils, the government has been investing in the development of tests that can support schools in their internal quality assurance. It makes these tests available to schools free of charge and without obligation. The tests are only accessible to recognised educational institutions. Three types of tests are available on this website:
- The Flemish version of the pupil monitoring system of the Dutch organisation CITO. For Flanders, this pupil monitoring system comprises standardised tests for pre-schoolers (language and sorting) and for primary education (technical reading and spelling). A pupil monitoring system (PMS) consists of a series of tests which are used to determine pupils’ level of progress at regular intervals. It enables both pupils’ current performance and their development to be systematically charted. Teachers can also check whether a pupil’s performance and progress are comparable with those of other pupils: is the pupil progressing as expected, taking account of his/her starting level? A PMS offers useful information at pupil, class and school level.
- The SALTO (Start of Primary Education Linguistic Skills Screening) test. Schools can use this listening test, developed by the Centre for Language and Education, to screen the Dutch-language proficiency of pupils starting their 1st grade of primary education at the start of the school year (in September-October). The tool assesses whether pupils have sufficient skills in Dutch to understand simple instructions, questions and information about the way school works. The results from the test indicate which pupils need extra care and support with regard to their linguistic skills. SALTO can help teachers attune their language skills education to the needs of their pupils, and aims to encourage schools to initiate reflection about a school language policy.
- The parallel tests developed within the framework of the periodical survey on final objectives and development objectives [see 184.108.40.206]. Schools can administer these tests and then input pupils’ answers into a secure feedback system and request a free school feedback report. The data are analysed and used to draw up the report by a research group from K.U.Leuven. The report contains information about the extent to which the school is succeeding in achieving the final objectives or development objectives, and compares its results with the Flemish average and with schools with a comparable pupil population (added value). It can constitute a starting-point for internal quality assurance. The website is supplemented every year with new sets of parallel tests.
Full inspections in elementary, secondary, adult and part-time artistic education & annual report from the inspectorate
In Elementary education, secondary education, Adult Education (incl. Adult Basic Education), part-time artistic education and the de CPG's external quality control is based on the full inspection of the institutions concerned.
With the new Quality decree of 8 May 2009, the educational inspectorate switched from integral to differentiated assessments: it assesses schools, academies and centres on the basis of the institutional profile, previous assessment reports and so on. The institutional profile consists of centrally collected data about the institutions. On the basis of this profile and of a one-day site visit, the educational inspectorate gauges the quality of the institution. Via interpretation and deliberation, the inspectors determine an assessment focus in the conclusion to the preliminary evaluation: which learning area, course of study or other aspect will they examine in detail during the actual assessment? The inspectors decide on the focus in direct proportion to the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the school.
An assessment is carried out by an assessment team consisting of at least two inspectors, plus one or more external experts.
During the assessment, the inspectorate checks that the educational regulations are being adhered to and that the educational institution/CPG is systematically investigating and monitoring its own quality. The inspectorate also examines any roles that the institution has assigned to the schools community, the schools group or the consortium to which it belongs.
If the inspectorate discovers shortcomings during an assessment, it considers whether or not the institution is able to rectify them on its own and without external support.
Every institution should be assessed at least once every ten years. For the determination of the frequency and intensity of assessment, the inspectorate takes as its basis the institutional profile, previous assessment reports, and so on. The inspectorate may also, in the event of serious complaints about an institution, conduct an assessment at the request of the Flemish government.
The monitoring of the hygiene, safety and fitness for use of buildings and premises, as prescribed in the regulations, can be conducted separately from the assessment. The educational inspectorate may opt to conduct such monitoring at the same time as the assessment.
In its judgement, the inspectorate never pronounces on the role of the institution’s management, or about individual staff members.
The framework of reference the inspectorate operates in the course of its full inspections is based on the CIPO model (which consists of 4 components: context, input, process, output); this model is in fact a structural framework which allows the interrelationship of findings to be looked at. Each component consists of a set of indicators. These components are fleshed out as follows:
- Context: stable information regarding location, organising body, physical and structural conditions under which the school must operate and on which it hardly has any influence at all.
- Input: information on the conditions under which and the resources with which the school must develop its processes, but which it can influence to a certain extent such as staff (profile, in-service training and training), financial resources, courses of study offered, pupils (offer, profile)…
- Process: all the pedagogical and school-organisational characteristics which indicate what efforts the school makes to achieve the objectives laid down by the government. This covers the areas: general policy, personnel management, logistics and the school's pedagogical policy.
- Output: both the hard output data which show to what extent the objectives ( final objectives, curricula, progression/transition...) to be attained are achieved and the softer output data such as the well-being of pupils and teachers. Non-quantitative data may also provide an insight into the results that an institution is achieving with its pupils / trainees.
The educational inspectorate’s CIPO reference framework, together with its indicators, variables and definitions, can be found on the website of the educational inspectorate.
From an indicator or variables point of view, the framework of reference in any case refers to the institutions' statutory obligations regarding minimum objectives, accreditation criteria and funding and subvention conditions and to the institutions' statutory obligations in the areas of:
- the equal educational opportunities policy;
- the special-needs policy and pupil guidance;
- the language policy;
- the policy in terms of the orientation of pupils;
- the pupil and course-participant evaluation policy;
- the policy choices aimed at the optimum deployment of and support to members of staff;
- the in-service training and professionalization policy;
- the policy on participation;
For each aspect of the institution’s functioning that is considered, the inspectorate asks the same basic questions:
- goal orientation: what goals has the school, centre or academy set itself?
- support: what support initiatives is the school, centre or academy taking in order to operate in an efficient and goal-oriented way?
- effectiveness: does the school, centre or academy check whether its goals are being achieved?
- development: does the school, centre or academy take notice of new developments?
The choice of this model means that the inspectorate views the functioning of the teacher and the principal within the context of the overall functioning of the school, and the functioning of the school within the local context. The model is used on the basis of an accountability and school development perspective. The school assessment is both a means of checking certain aspects of the school (accountability) and a possible opportunity for schools to optimise the quality of the education they provide (development). In addition, the assessment team checks that the school’s infrastructure is adequate and that the legal requirements are adhered to closely. Legislative framework: Flemish government decree of 1 October 2010 WeTwijs - inspectorate
Institutions which are due for a full inspection receive ample notice in writing in which they are invited to meet for an information session, are sent an information file which probes for any information that does not feature in any of the authorities' databases.
Full inspections consist of three stages:
- a preliminary investigation
- full inspection visit
- a report.
At every stage, the team of inspectors always follow four identical steps:
- a source analysis
- checking the information from these sources
- interpreting the information
(1) When an inspection team is about to conduct a full inspection of a school, centre or academy, it first draws up a school profile: it tries to get a picture of the quality of the institution. This forms part of the preliminary investigation, consisting of:
- a source analysis:
- a first source are the figures featuring in the government's operational databases. These are basically the data the educational institutions forward to Brussels.
- a second source are the data the inspectorate collects from the institutions via the information file. This information file basically consists of a short, written questionnaire.
- a third source is all information from previous assessments: assessment and follow-up reports, equal educational opportunities policy reports, and so on. In addition to the specific institutional profile, the educational inspectorate also has a reference profile for similar institutions. This enables the inspectorate team to compare the individual results of the institution concerned with a reference group.
- fine-tuning in situ through observation, meetings and an analysis of the documents. A team composed of two inspectors pays the school, centre or academy a one-day visit.
Finally, through interpretation and deliberation the inspectors arrive at an assessment focus: which learning area, course of study or other aspect will they examine closely during the assessment visit? The inspectors decide on the focus in direct proportion to the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the school. The inspectorate team announces the entire assessment focus at the end of the preliminary investigation. (2) During the assessment visit phase, the inspectors come to take a look at the school, centre or academy for a few days. They conduct interviews, study documents and observe. This phase takes two to six days, depending on the size of the institution, the scope of the assessment focus, and the composition of the assessment team. For some aspects, such as the cross-curricular final objectives in SE and the language policy in SE and elementary education, the inspectorate uses specific tools. These are made available to schools on the inspectorate’s website. After the assessment visit, each inspector selects and classifies the information gathered on the basis of the analytical framework in order to arrive at as objective an overall picture of the institution as possible. At the end of the processing period, the inspector/reporter organises a meeting of all team members. The meeting is for deliberation purposes, and leads to the eventual report and formal opinion.
Within 60 days of the full inspection, the inspectorate will have a verification talk with the management and board of the institution to inform them about its findings. At the latest 30 days after this meeting, the inspectorate will forward its report to the school board. The report must be put on the agenda of a staff meeting within thirty days of the School Head having received it. It must be discussed in its entirety. The process will not be finalized until such time as the report has been returned to the inspectorate, duly signed (by the board and the organising body) and if no appeal proceedings are pending. Only then the report is published.
In its report, the inspectorate will list a number of recommendations to stimulate the internal quality-assurance process within the institution. However, the institution is free to decide how it will act on these recommendations.
Where applicable, the inspectorate will also point out any shortcomings it has discovered. Contrary to the inspectorate's recommendations, schools must always act on any shortcomings the inspectorate highlights. Schools may use a number of aids to redress the shortcomings by the preset deadline: they may draft a concrete step-by-step programme, seek the help and support from a counselling service or draft an in-service training plan focussing on these shortcomings. Once again, this decision appertains to the school.
Every report culminates in an advice to the minister. There are 3 possibilities:
- Favourable opinion on all structural elements: The institution is operating to a sufficiently high quality standard and is strong enough to monitor and improve its quality itself. All structural elements are still recognised. There is no follow-up visit. The education inspectorate only goes back to the institution at the time of the next audit.
- Limited favourable advice for individual or all structural components: The institution must eliminate certain shortfalls within an imposed time limit. All or individual structural components remain provisionally approved. During the follow-up check, the Education Inspectorate checks whether the deficits have been eliminated. Depending on this, individual or all structural components receive a favourable or unfavourable recommendation.
- Unfavourable advice for individual or all structural components The institution has to eliminate important deficits. The Education Inspectorate will decide whether the institution can do this independently or whether it needs external guidance. The procedure for the withdrawal of recognition for all individual structural components is started. This procedure is suspended for one to three school years if the institution submits an improvement plan and the inspectorate approves it. The institution is given two months to submit an improvement plan.
- If the institution did not submit an improvement plan, a new audit by a joint inspection team shall be carried out within three months of the deadline for submitting an improvement plan.
- If the institution has submitted an improvement plan but it is not approved, a new audit by a joint inspection team shall be carried out within three months of the rejection.
- If the institution submitted an improvement plan and it is approved, a new audit shall be carried out by a joint inspection team during the last three months of the suspension period (minimum one and maximum three school years).
The full-inspection reports of any institutions inspected after 1 January 2007 can at the earliest be consulted on the website of the Department for Education and Training 3 months after their full inspection. The inspection reports issued prior to 2007 can be requested by e-mail. http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/doorlichtingsverslagen/
The 'Onderwijsspiegel' (Education Mirror) : the annual report from the inspectorate
Based on their findings during the evaluation of educational institutions (see 9.4.2.) the inspectorate writes a yearly report on the state of education. This annual report of the inspectorate (the so-called Onderwijsspiegel (Mirror of Education)) describes the state of education during the previous school year and puts forward a number of policy recommendations, both at general policy level and at school level. This is also published and downloadable as the Onderwijsspiegel.
The Onderwijsspiegel 2009-2010 consists of an overview of the assessments and formal opinions, the results of the five-yearly inspection of the boarding schools and the results of two language surveys (language policy in obligatory education & the European Framework of Reference and modern languages programmes in adult education).
Full inspections of CPGs
The decree of 8 May 2009 on the quality of education now also regulates the assessment of the CPGs.
The inspectorate checks that the CPG is complying with CPG regulations and that it systematically examines and monitors its own quality. In doing so, the inspectorate also looks at any roles that the CPG has assigned to the schools community, schools group or consortium to which it belongs.
If the inspectorate discovers shortcomings during an assessment, it considers whether the CPG is able to rectify these shortcomings on its own and without external support.
Periodical surveys on the final development objectives
Since 2002, the Flemish government has organised periodical surveys in order to gain insight into the quality of the Flemish education system on the basis of reliable and objective pupil performance data. Surveys look at the extent to which pupils at the end of a particular educational level have actually achieved a number of final objectives or development objectives defined by decree. A survey is a large-scale set of valid and reliable tests administered to a representative sample of schools and pupils.
The survey system provides a great deal of policy-relevant information to both the government and schools. Surveys provide an answer to the following questions:
- To what extent have pupils in Flemish education (and Dutch-language education in Brussels) achieved the final objectives or development objectives at the end of a particular educational level? Which final objectives/development objectives are being successfully achieved? Which minimum goals are presenting difficulties?
- Are there systematic differences between schools in the percentage of pupils achieving the final objectives/development objectives? Do these differences remain when the pupil population is taken into account?
- To what extent are performance differences associated with certain pupil, class or school characteristics?
- In the case of a repeat survey, have pupils performed better or worse than they did previously?
Since 2005 the system of periodic surveys has been further extended.
- Two surveys per year are organised in compulsory education (elementary education and the different stages of secondary education).
- Some surveys are repeated in order to identify changes over time.
- A choice has been made in favour of testing a rich diversity of learning areas or subjects, themes that cut across individual learning areas or cover the entire curriculum and general skills.
- If necessary, as well as written tests, practical tests can also be organised among a sample of pupils to gain a picture of the mastery of less easily measurable skills.
- In addition to pupil testing, questionnaires are used to gather information from pupils, parents, teachers and management teams about pupil, class and school characteristics that may be associated with differences in pupil performance. This makes it possible to refine analyses and explain the results better. Anonymity is guaranteed for the participating schools, classes and pupils. If the researchers can find characteristics that are associated with better or poorer pupil performance, the government and the schools will then know which factors they need to work on in order to ensure that more pupils achieve the minimum goals in the future. Via such an informative account the survey offers the government and the schools learning opportunities.
- Schools that have been involved in the survey receive a school feedback report. This report contains information about the extent to which the school is succeeding in achieving the tested final objectives/development objectives among its pupils, and compares the school average with the Flemish average and with the performance of (anonymous) schools with a comparable set of pupils. Schools may be able to use the report in connection with their internal quality assurance.
- Schools that are not part of the sample also have the chance to take a look at themselves by means of scientifically based tests. At the same time as the survey tests, parallel versions are also developed that measure exactly the same things as the survey tests, but by means of other – similar – exercises. The first parallel tests were made available to schools on a non-compulsory basis in May 2009 via the secure website www.paralleltoetsen.be (see above). Schools that administer these tests can request a feedback report that offers comparable information to that in the feedback report that schools receive that have participated in the survey.
- Extensive communication about the survey results takes place via a seminar, a brochure and a website. The survey results form an objective basis for an informed discussion with all education partners about the quality of education. For this reason, since 2007 it has been the practice to initiate a follow-up process after the survey results have been released, a consultation with all the education partners and an open conference will be organised.. In this way, a quality debate is initiated after each survey, in which an attempt is made with the various actors to find explanations for the survey results and agree on possible actions that can be taken to conserve the good points in our education system and improve the less good ones. The improvement actions that can relate to various fields of action: didactics, attainment targets, curricula, teaching materials, guidance, teacher training, in-service training, school policy, support for certain groups of pupils... The aim is for the various actors to translate the recommendations into concrete improvement actions. For example, the government has updated or revised certain attainment targets packages in response to the survey results. The improvement actions are presented during an inspirational day for the field of education.
The periodic survey evaluations have now gained a firm place in the Flemish quality assurance system. They complement other forms of external quality monitoring and can also support schools in their internal quality assurance.
More information about the surveys can be found on the surveys website of the government and of the research group. Brochures about survey results, conference papers and brochures with recommendations on improvement actions can also be found on these websites.
Validated tests in primary education
Since the 2017-2018 school year, each school must take a validated test for at least two areas of learning for each pupil at the end of ordinary primary education. From the 2018-2019 school year onwards, each school must take a validated test for at least three areas of study for each pupil at the end of primary education. The school itself chooses which areas of learning it takes tests for. (see https://data-onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/edulex/document.aspx?docid=15086). As a result of the COVID19 crisis, it was decided that, exceptionally, for the 2019-2020 school year, schools could choose for themselves whether to take the validated tests.
The government provides schools with a toolkit of validated tests. Schools using a test from the toolkit have the guarantee that they are using a validated test and therefore comply with the regulations.
The toolkit contains three types of tests:
- The interdioscesan tests (IDP) of the Catholic Education Flanders;
- The OVSG test of the Education Secretariat of the Cities and Municipalities of the Flemish Community;
- The parallel tests of the polls developed on behalf of the Flemish government.
The toolkit is available at http://onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/toolkit-gevalideerde-toetsen-basisonderwijs
Schools taking part in the polls at the end of primary education may take this participation into account as the taking of a validated test for one area of learning. Participation in the calibration test, within the framework of the calibration survey for a survey, may also be considered as the taking of a validated test for one field of study.
The results of the assessment assessments are aimed at obtaining information at school level on the extent to which the pupil population reaches the attainment targets. It is the intention that a school uses the results to work with them within the framework of internal quality assurance. The results on the tests do not determine the awarding of the certificate of primary education to a pupil. It remains the class council that decides autonomously which pupils receive the certificate of primary education. The class council is free to include the results of the validated tests as an element in the assessment of individual pupils, but this is not an obligation. The school remains the owner of the test results. The school does not have to pass on the results of these test results to the authorities. There is also no obligation to submit the results to the Education Inspectorate, although the Education Inspectorate can check whether the school complies with the regulatory obligation to take validated tests.
Standardized and validated cross-network and cross-domain tests
In the Flemish Coalition Agreement 2019-2024 it was agreed that validated, standardized and standardized tests will be introduced to keep a finger on the pulse of education policy such as quality monitoring. These instruments measure: the attainment of the attainment targets, the learning gains of the pupils, the learning gains at school level. An independent body develops these quality instruments with the involvement of the education providers. The tests are by definition net- and umbrella-transcending and will initially focus on Dutch (reading comprehension, writing, grammar) and Mathematics. The tests are taken by all schools from all pupils at two points in primary education, just like at the end of the first grade of secondary education and at the end of secondary education. Eventually, these measuring instruments will replace the existing tests. The results are fed back at pupil and school level to the schools and, anonymised at individual level, to the government (including inspection and education providers), and researchers made available. The aim is by no means to create a classification of schools, nor to increase learning gains.
On 15 December 2020, a new university support centre was launched for the development of standardized, validated, cross-network and cross-domain tests in Flanders. In addition, the results of the feasibility study into the implementation of these tests in Flanders will be announced in the spring of 2021. On the basis of these results, the implementation of the tests and the mandate of the Policy Research Centre will be given further shape.
In 2021, the centre will start developing tests for the first grade of secondary education A- and B-curriculum for Dutch and mathematics. This will take place in preparation for a first test at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Both the attainment levels for basic literacy and a selection of the other attainment levels will be tested. For Dutch, the focus is mainly on reading comprehension, grammar and writing. The test developers take into account the expectation to measure learning gains between the end of the first grade and the end of the third grade of secondary education. The educational field is involved in all phases of test development.
The Policy Research Centre "Development of standardized, standardized and validated network and cross-domain tests in Flanders" has the following tasks:
- Test development
- Support the taking of standardized tests
- Processing and analysis of results at pupil, class, school and system level
- Reporting of results at pupil, class, school and system level and feedback to schools, teachers and pupils
- Development of specific expertise
The purpose of the tests is to increase learning, not to create a classification of schools. A thorough legal analysis should indicate what possibilities there are to avoid a ranking of schools as much as possible.
In 2021, a start will be made with the drafting of regulations obliging schools in primary and secondary education to take part in the tests.
Participation in international comparative studies
Flanders regularly participates in international comparative educational research. The information obtained from the international comparison between education systems is one of the sources for evaluating the functioning of one's own education system. Output and outcome information play an important role in this, but are systematically supplemented with context, input and process information. We list the most important international comparative studies on education in which Flanders recently took part.
'PISA' (Programme for International Student Assessment / OECD), 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018, 2022
Since 2000, PISA has been measuring the reading, mathematics and science skills of 15-year-olds (regardless of where they are in the education system) every three years. Flanders has participated in all cycles. Rather than focusing on mastery of a school curriculum, PISA focuses on the extent to which pupils understand concepts, master processes and are able to apply knowledge and skills in various real-life situations. PISA works on a three-year cycle in which the main domain is rotated: in 2000, reading literacy was started, in 2003 mathematical literacy was tested, in 2006 scientific literacy, and so on. Over time, the PISA survey also offers several optional components.
The most recent results are those of PISA 2018 (available at https://www.onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/programme-for-international-student-assessment-pisa#Resultaten_PISA_2018). Flemish 15-year-olds do quite well in an international perspective for the three domains, but a clear negative trend is visible.
The Flemish research section was carried out by the Department of Educational Studies of Ghent University. At the moment, PISA 2021, which was transformed into PISA 2022 as a result of the Corona crisis, is in progress.
PIAAC, Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies / OECD, 2011
PIAAC is an OECD study that runs in 27 countries. In Flanders, it is conducted by Ghent University and financed and directed by the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Work and Social Economy. PIAAC examines literacy, numeracy, reading components and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Although broader in scope, this research links up with the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), a literacy study in which Flanders participated in 1997. The results of both surveys will also be compared. The preliminary study took place in 2010. The main study will follow in 2011 and the results were made available in the spring of 2013. See also OBPWO - PIAAC.
TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey / OECD), 2008, 2013, 2018, 2024
In this OECD study, teachers and school leaders are questioned about a wide range of aspects related to their job as a teacher/school leader and the school as a working environment. Themes such as classroom practice, professional development, leadership styles, etc. are addressed. Since the first cycle, the first grade of secondary education has been the core population; from the second cycle onwards, several optional populations were offered. Flanders has participated in all cycles: 2008 (first stage of secondary education), 2013 & 2018 (both primary education and first stage of secondary education). Flanders will also participate in TALIS 2024 for which preparations are currently underway.
The most recent results are those of TALIS 2018; they can be consulted on https://www.onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/teaching-and-learning-international-survey-talis.
TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study / IEA), 2003, 2011, 2015, 2019, 2023
TIMSS (on the initiative of the IEA [International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement]) maps pupil performance in mathematics and science in the 4th year of primary school and the 2nd year of secondary school internationally. In 2003, the choice was made in Flanders to participate in the fourth year of primary education. This participation was repeated in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
The results of this last cycle were recently published: https://www.onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/trends-in-international-mathematics-and-science-study-timss. Both for mathematics and science, the average performance of our Flemish pupils is declining. For mathematics, the average performance level in an international perspective remains satisfactory; this is not the case for science.
Currently, the Flemish participation in TIMSS 2023 Grade 4 is being prepared.
PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Survey/IEA), 2006, 2016, 2021
PIRLS (on the initiative of the IEA) provides an international overview of pupil performance in reading comprehension in the 4th year of primary education. The most recent results, those of PIRLS 2016, can be consulted here: https://www.onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/progress-in-international-reading-literacy-study-pirls.
The average score of our Flemish pupils deteriorated significantly in PIRLS 2016 compared to PIRLS 2006.
ICCS, International Civic and Citizenship Education Study / IEA, 2009, 2016
ICCS (on the initiative of the IEA) maps the citizenship knowledge and attitudes of students in the second year of the first grade of secondary education in an international comparative manner. Flanders participated in 2009 and 2016 but will not participate in 2022.
The Flemish results of ICCS can be consulted here: https://www.onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/international-civic-and-citizenship-education-study-iccs. In terms of citizenship knowledge, our Flemish pupils score on the European average in 2016. We also see a positive evolution between 2009 and 2016.
Scientific Research Oriented Towards Education Policy and Practice (OBPWO)
Every year the Flemish Minister of Education and Training devotes part of the budget to 'Scientific Research Oriented Towards Education Policy and Practice' (OBPWO).
In 2020, the Decree of the Flemish Government regulating the procedure for the projects of educational policy- and practice-oriented scientific research was updated.
From 2021 onwards, there will again be an annual theme setting for research projects. The research programming is closely aligned with the strategic and operational objectives as formulated in the policy document and the policy letters of the Minister. This theme setting contains knowledge questions about educational policy and practice. Support and reinforce the results:
- The preparation, implementation, evaluation and adjustment of education policy
- The daily classroom and school practice
The knowledge and insights from the research are useful and also necessary for various educational partners such as school leaders, teachers and policy supporters. Extra attention is paid to the communication of the research results, so that the educational partners can start working with the research results in an easily accessible manner.
The annual procedure is as follows:
- The theme setting, and the corresponding budgetary allocation between short-term and long-term research, takes place on the advice of the ad hoc policy committee for educational policy- and practice-oriented scientific research, which is composed by the Secretary-General and consists of officials from the Education and Training policy area and a representation of the Education Inspectorate.
- The VLOR offers their recommendations on possible research themes.
- The Flemish Government then determines the priority research themes and the budgetary allocation between short-term and long-term research, following the proposal of the ad hoc policy committee.
- These are communicated to the universities and colleges of higher education by means of an open call for proposals.
- The research proposals submitted will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria:
- the quality, i.e. the scientific quality, including an adequate theoretical framework; an adequate methodology to answer the research questions; the relevance and usefulness for policy and educational practice; the quality of the valorisation proposals; the quality and feasibility of the planning.
- the expertise of the proposers, in particular: experience and expertise in similar scientific research; familiarity with the required theoretical and methodological frameworks; familiarity with the Flemish educational landscape; experience with management and organisational tasks with such projects.
- the cost.
- The research proposals will be assessed by the ad hoc policy committee, supplemented by two scientific experts working outside the Flemish Community. This extensive ad hoc policy committee is responsible for the full assessment and ranking of all proposals. In addition, the extended ad hoc policy committee can be advised in the assessment by substantive experts for each theme. These experts only have an advisory role and do not take part in the assessment of research proposals.
- On the basis of the assessment, the Minister determines the general ranking of the research proposals submitted and determines the projects eligible for funding. The Minister can only select projects that achieve at least 75% of the total of the criteria.
- With the agreement of the Flemish Minister responsible for the budget, the Minister approves the selected projects.
- During the course of the project, each research project is monitored by a steering committee that monitors both the scientific quality and the policy relevance of that project. Each steering committee includes both policymakers and scientific experts. This steering committee also pays attention to the valorisation of the research results.
- The researchers formulate a series of policy recommendations based on their findings.
- In consultation with the steering committee, an appropriate initiative for valorisation and publication is also developed for each research project (e.g. study day, seminar, publication of a brochure for schools).
An overview of completed and ongoing projects can be found on the OBPWO web pages.
Centres for policy-relevant research of interest to education
The focal themes for policy-relevant research were launched in 2001. For the theme of education, the Support Centre Careers through Education to the Labour Market (LOA) was established at that time. In 2007, the second generation support centre for education, the Support Centre for Study and School Careers (SSL), was launched. The third generation support centre ran from 2012 to mid-2016.
Focus of research
From the outset, the emphasis was on the combination of data collection and scientific policy-relevant research. Three large-scale longitudinal databases were built up within the support centre:
- LOSO maps out careers in secondary education.
- SiBO does the same for careers in primary education.
- Sonar charts the transition from education to the labour market.
A new longitudinal data collection of careers in secondary education is currently underway with LiSO (Careers in Secondary Education).
LOA and SSL published a number of reports on various themes. Download the reports on their websites.
Support centre for policy-oriented educational research
On 1 July 2016, a support centre for policy-oriented educational research was set up. The Support Centre for Educational Research (SONO) consists of a consortium of Flemish researchers led by Geert Devos (UGent). The studies run until the end of 2020.
The main tasks of the support centre are
- Carrying out scientific research around themes that the Flemish government considers to be a priority and relevant for policy preparation and evaluation
- Ensuring the transfer of knowledge through reports and seminars, among other things
The long duration will allow the focal point to take up more active forms of dessimination and actually become part of the mission.
There were 3 thematic research lines for this of the focal point:
- The learner
- The teacher and the school as an organisation
- The organisation of education
The 3 theme lines stem from the priorities set out in the Education Policy Paper 2014-2019. Among other things, the focal point must provide an answer to strategic and concrete policy questions regarding the evolution of the quality, efficiency, and equity of Flemish education.
University research groups
Finally, there are a number of Flemish university research groups involved in fundamental and practical scientific research on the performance of (aspects of) the Flemish education system.
The Fund for Scientific Research, FWO, furthers fundamental scientific research in all scientific disciplines offered by the Flemish universities, including partnerships and joint ventures between universities and other research institutions, more specifically by providing financial support to researchers and research projects based on scientific competition and with due regard for international quality standards. It was recognised as a private-law external autonomous agency in 2009 (see 1.2.2.). (http://www.fwo.be/ ).
For an overview of research projects in Flanders, please visit the Flemish research portal FRIS (Flanders Research Information Space).