Responsibility for childcare facilities lies with the French Community. The Office for Birth and Childhood (ONE), a paracommunity institution, is the expert body of the French Community for all matters relating to childhood, policies on childhood, the protection of mothers, support for parenthood and childcare. ONE’s mission is to encourage and develop the protection of mother and child.
Most powers with regard to education are exercised by the Communities, although specific aspects concern other levels of power.
The federal state
With respect to education, only three prerogatives included in the Constitution (coordinated version of February, 17, 1994) remain under the jurisdiction of federal (or national) authorities. These are:
- defining when compulsory schooling begins and when it ends;
- the minimum requirements for issuing diplomas; and
- the pension scheme.
The Federal Science Policy Office is a federal administrative body responsible for preparing, executing and evaluating science policy and its impact and more specifically for exercising the remaining federal powers in the area of education.
The Federal Public Service for Defence organises training in a number of institutions.
The French Community
Responsibility for policy on pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education and specialised education lies with the Parliament of the French Community and its Government. They are also responsible for social advancement education and distance education.
The government of the French Community has a dual responsibility:
- it is the controlling authority for schools administered by the French Community and, as such, establishes structures, curricula, and methods; it administers schools, and takes all measures with a view to improving their operation;
- it regulates public and independent grant-aided schools, in compliance with the applicable constitutional and legal provisions.
Each minister is assisted by a cabinet. This is a group of people who assist the ministers to accomplish the tasks entrusted to them (i.e. translating the decisions taken by the Council and Government of the Community into legal texts and carrying out preparatory work in connection with decisions to be made by the Minister and the Council). The cabinet's term is linked to the government's term, i.e. a maximum of 5 years.
The role of the Ministry of the French Community is primarily to execute ministerial decisions. It is also involved in the technical study of new regulations (laws, decrees, etc.).
The implementation of the regulations by the administration necessarily involves inspection, but there is also an aspect of service to the heads of school and the controlling authorities: they are provided in good time with all the necessary information and tools needed to organise their schools smoothly, with full assurance of compliance with the law for both students and staff members. In particular, this service is provided via circulars which present the content of decree and regulatory provisions initiated by the legislative powers and the French Community executive, and which are sent to all people whose task is to administer the structures that are part of the Ministry of the French Community and/or who are concerned, for a variety of reasons, by its actions.
At the different levels of education, the administration is responsible, in one way or another, for administering the following areas:
- the general characteristics of schools;
- the structure of the specific education on offer at each school, i.e. forms, years of study, streams, options, courses, programmes, etc. that each school is authorised to organise in compliance with the standards and rules in effect;
- the compliance of schedules, i.e. the combination of courses attended by each student during a week;
- the regularity of student enrolment;
- school population flows (from the standpoint, in particular, of monitoring standards, the different calculations of teacher/pupil ratios, statistics, etc.);
- the calculation of staffing levels;
- the calculation of administrative and auxiliary education staffing levels;
- the calculation of operating subsidies or grants;
- determining the job positions eligible to be organised/subsidised (in compliance with staffing standards) and assigning teaching staff (in compliance with statutory rules).
Within the Ministry of the French Community, it is the General Administration of Education (AGE) that performs most functions relating to education. This administrative body consists of six directorates and general services:
- the Administrator-General’s Service
- the General Service for the Steering of the Education System
- the General Service for Education Organised by the French Community
- the General Directorate for Compulsory Education
- the General Directorate for Non-Compulsory Education and Scientific Research
- the General Inspection Service
Other services also work in areas relating to education, in particular the General Teaching Staff Administration, the School Facilities Service, the Directorate for Equal Opportunities, the Culture and Education Unit and the Directorate for International Relations.
The Regions’ only powers with regard to education relate to school transport; the regional administration also manages school buildings jointly with the French Community.
As part of their vocational training policy, the Regions are developing increasingly numerous contacts with secondary technical and vocational schools, and subsidising various university/enterprise joint initiatives, e.g. in the new technologies sector. Dual vocational education and training is provided not only by schools but also by IFAPME (the Walloon Institute of Dual Vocational Education and Training for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises – in the Walloon Region) and the SFPME (Small and Mid-Sized Companies Training Service in the Brussels-Capital Region). These dual vocational courses known as ‘apprenticeship contracts’ satisfy the compulsory schooling requirement. IFAPME and the SFPME are run by small and medium-sized businesses and fall within the competence of the Regions.
In the various areas in which both Regional and Community powers are exercised, the French Community, the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region devise joint policies.
Adult vocational training outside the school system (mainly for workers and job-seekers) falls within the competence of the Regions.
Forem is the Walloon public service for employment and vocational training. It is not controlled by the Walloon government, but is managed jointly by a Management Committee consisting of representatives of the workers and the employers, and by two government commissioners.
In the Brussels-Capital Region, the French Community Commission (Cocof) has entrusted Bruxelles Formation with the task of providing information, support and guidance for job-seekers.
IFAPME (the Walloon Institute of Dual Vocational Education and Training for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises – in the Walloon Region) and the SFPME (Small and Mid-Sized Companies Training Service in the Brussels-Capital Region) and their networks of training centres are responsible for implementing dual vocational education and training for small and mid-sized companies. IFAPME and the SFPME fall within the competence of the Regions.
A number of training courses intended for adults fall within the competence of the French Community : this is primarily true of social advancement education, but also of distance education and part-time secondary arts education, which is characterised by the diversity of students’ ages.