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Teaching and learning in vocational secondary education

Belgium - Flemish Community

6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.8Teaching and learning in vocational secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

Weekly time table

See second and third stage. 

With the introduction of the modernization of secondary education and the new educational goals, school boards determine the linking of goals to subjects or subject clusters. This is already applicable in the second stage. The respectively compulsory subjects of the basic curriculum in third stage vse are: 

 Third stage vse 

 Courses related to religion and ethics 


 Social training OR history and geography 

 French or English 

Physical education 


In the third year of third stage vse, the basic curriculum consists of general subjects, including: 

 Courses related to religion and ethics 


 Social training OR history and geography 

French or English 

Physical education 


Two or more of these subjects are integrated as "project general subjects".  

In addition, for education offered in the centers for part-time education and the Syntra vzw, the course in religion or non-denominational ethics is not mandatory. 

Study fields and courses of study in vocational secondary education

Fulltime vocational secondary education

The specific courses of study according to the structure are listed on the website of Flemish Education and by finality for the second stage or per course of study for the third stage in the annexes to circular letter SO 60

Second stage: 

  1. Study domain language and culture; 

  1. Study domain STEM; 

  1. Study domain art and creation; 

  1. Study domain of agriculture and horticulture; 

  1. Study domain of economics and organization; 

  1. Study domain of society and welfare; 

  1. Study domain sports; 

  1. Study domain food and hospitality. 

Third stage: 

  1. Sports 

  1. Car engineering 

  1. Construction 

  1. Decorative techniques 

  1. Glass techniques 

  1. Graphical communication and media 

  1. Commerce 

  1. Woodwork 

  1. Jewellery 

  1. Cooling and heating 

  1. Agriculture and horticulture 

  1. Personal hygiene 

  1. Social safety (only third grade of third stage) 

  1. Maritime programmes 

  1. Mechanics-electricity 

  1. Fashion 

  1. Construction of musical instruments 

  1. (People) Care 

  1. Textiles 

  1. Tourism 

  1. Nutrition 

Specialisation years in the third grade of the third stage of vse must in principle be chosen within the same field of study. A permission by the admissions committee is necessary to choose a specialisation year in a different field of study. 

Part-time vocational secondary education

The possible courses of study in part-time vocational secondary education are listed on the Flemish education website

Attainment targets

Fulltime vocational secondary education

See second and third stage. 

Part-time vocational secondary education

In modular education general and vocational training is organized in the form of hours learning and working.  

For youngsters who follow pathways that lead to a Secondary Education Certificate general education must comply with the preconditions of attainment targets and teaching plans. The level of study is in this way equivalent to that from fulltime vocational secondary education. 

As subject-related attainment targets the existing attainment targets for the subjects from the basic curriculum of vocational secondary education apply, with the exception of the subject of physical education. As cross-curricular attainment targets the attainment targets of vocational secondary education apply. 

The system of apprenticeships

An apprenticeship comprises: 

  • a practical training (four days a week) in an enterprise, given by the employer or a monitor appointed by the employer; 


  • a theoretical training during at least 30 weeks per school year. This training comprises general education (minimum 4 hours a week) and vocational education (minimum four hours a week), possibly supplemented with language courses or remediation courses for pupils who have fallen behind. This training is given by teachers in a SYNTRA campus, one day a week (or 1,5 days a week for 15 year olds). 

The theoretical training is given in a Centre for the training of independent and SME in a SYNTRA-campus. 

  • The general training is given on the basis of teaching plans approved by the Flemish Government; 

  • The vocational training comprises technical learning contents and is supplementary to and inextricably linked to the practical training in the enterprise; 

  • The additional language courses are aimed at acquiring a basic knowledge of Dutch for non-Dutch speakers or at acquiring a basic knowledge of a foreign language in order to promote contact with the clientele; 

  • The remediation courses are organised for pupils who have fallen behind in their education. 

The stipulations of the Codex Secondary Education with regard to attainment targets, teaching plans and deviation procedures (with exception for the subject of physical education) for secondary education are also applicable to the general training in the system of apprenticeships. 

Teaching methods and materials

Fulltime vocational secondary education

See first stage. 

Alternance learning and training system

Work-based learning is an important component within the system of alternance training. 

Pupil internships

Pupil internships aim at a guided participation of the pupil-intern to the activities of an actual labour position. Pupil internships are allowed from the second stage onwards as long as the pupil is at least 15 years old and no longer subject to fulltime compulsory education. 

The pupil-intern has a double statute: he is a pupil as well as employee. The intern however is not granted a wage. Pupil internships can be organized in an alternating way (with fixed intervals and spread over a certain period) or as one unit (a continuous period). 

For every pupil a pupil internship agreement must be concluded between the pupil-intern, the school and the organisation giving the pupil internship. A teacher acts as internship guidance officer. His assessment of the internship is taken into account in the final evaluation by the deliberating class council. He is also responsible for the preparation, supervision, educational guidance and evaluation of the pupil internship. This takes place in constructive consultation with the internship mentor who receives and guides the pupil-intern on the workfloor. The school is obliged to organize sufficient internship guidance and places. Also the organizer of the internship must offer sufficient support by means of the internship mentor. 

The organisation of pupil internships is supported and promoted in education and sector covenants, by regional technological centres, a.t. (Circular SO/2015/01, SO/2016/01 and SO 74).