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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Adult education and training

Belgium - French Community

8.Adult education and training

Last update: 28 March 2024


The governments of the French Community, the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region (the Examination Board of the French Community Commission) plan to develop consolidated lifelong learning opportunities, in particular by developing synergies between education and training providers and developing a range of high-quality education and training that is accessible at all levels, with a particular emphasis on dual vocational education and training, qualification-stream education and social advancement education.

Adult education and training is mainly provided in two types of institution : schools and training or education centres.

Social advancement education is provided in 157 institutions for social advancement education, throughout the territory of the French Community (decree 16/04/1991). Though usually provided in school premises, it may also under certain conditions be provided in workplaces or in any other place where people seeking education can gather.

Part-time secondary arts education (ESAHR) is provided in 112 establishments in the French Community, generally known as ‘academies’. Thus these two types of education are largely decentralised.

Training courses for job-seekers and workers are taught in training centres spread throughout the territory, and in some cases include internships in companies.

The positioning of further education organisations is not centrally coordinated, but centres tend to be more common in towns and cities.

Finally, distance learning makes it possible, by definition, to follow a training course independently of one’s place of residence, whether in Belgium or even abroad: lessons and assignments are exchanged by post or email. Such courses are accessible in particular to those in hospital, in prison, resident abroad, etc.

A variety of target groups and goals

Social advancement education

Social advancement education is part of the dynamic of lifelong education in the French Community.
Social advancement education in the strict sense of the term provides learners, often with very varied backgrounds, a wide range of courses at secondary or higher education level, as well as an opportunity to acquire recognised qualifications (certificates and diplomas) that they failed to obtain in their initial education.
Thanks to the flexibility of its organisation, this type of teaching allows students to combine studies and employment and meets a variety of individual and collective needs: initiation, qualification, improvement, retraining, reorientation, specialisation, personal development.
It has two main aims :

• to contribute towards the individual’s personal development by promoting better occupational, social, cultural and educational integration ;

• to respond to needs and requests for training from businesses, public services, the education sector and, in general, from socio-economic and cultural groups.

Higher social advancement education also pursues the objectives set by the decree of 7 November 2013 (the ‘Landscape decree’) for higher education organised or grant-aided by the French Community. These objectives are centered on three key words: excellence (of research), consistency (of provision) and quality (of teaching), with a will to promote student’s success. The hard core of the reform is the creation of the ARES, an “Academy" gathering together all the stakeholders of Higher Education, in order to complete and better coordinate Higher Education provision in the French Community. The aim is to move from a competitive approach towards stronger collaborations and synergies. Higher Education is organized in 5 geographic clusters. Apart from these structural aspects, the reform focuses on organization of the curriculum. The guiding thread of the project is the student, his status, the promotion of academic success, the diversity of provision (including proximity for first cycles), and quality of the curriculum. The project also aims at following the international evolution based on excellence, personalized and lifelong curriculums, international and pluridisciplinary openness, teachers and students' mobility, etc. While the current organization too often tends to focus on academic failure, the reform aims at promoting achievement and success.

The education provided addresses individual and collective needs for introductory courses, remedial instruction, qualifications, advanced studies, refresher training, retraining, and specialisation. It constitutes one of the forms of continuing education, which itself forms part of the lifelong education movement. Social advancement education is a form of ‘second chance’ education, in that it can take account of skills previously acquired in education or other forms of training, even without certification, including work experience. Students in social advancement education are :

• qualified or unqualified people who are not working (retired people, housewives, refugees etc.) or who are working, and who wish to improve their skills or gain a specialisation, an update (refresher training), or initial training with a view to a career change ;

• qualified or unqualified people who are not working (retired people, housewives, refugees etc.) or who are working, and who wish to acquire knowledge and skills for their personal development or leisure ;

• students who are completing their training in areas where they have experienced difficulties or which they feel were missing from their initial training (foreign languages, information technology, etc.) ;

• young people who choose this sort of education instead of initial training for various reasons (shorter course, possibility of combining education with work, etc.).

For some years now, this type of education has been particularly important for foreigners (notably refugees) with a view to facilitating their integration.

The decree of 30 April 2009 relating to literacy and integration actions in social advancement education has reinforced the offer of training in literacy, French as a foreign language and obtaining the certificate of primary education (CEB = Certificat d'études de base) mainly for people of foreign origin.

Additional resources are also being provided for French as a foreign language training for migrants.

Lastly, special attention is also paid to literacy training in prisons, with priority being given to a partnership between Social Advancement Education and associations providing literacy training in prisons.

Distance learning

The main objectives of distance learning, organized as e-learning, as set out in the decree of 13 July 2016, are as follows :

  • to prepare students for the exams organised by the French Community Examination Board with a view to obtaining the first- and second-stage secondary education certificates (CE1D and CESDD) or the upper secondary education certificate (CESS); passing one of these exams enables ordinary education to be resumed, not just at secondary but also at higher education level ;
  • to prepare for the external exams organized by the French Community in compulsory education;
  • to benefit from educational support;
  • to follow a full year of study ;
  • to follow some lessons of a year of study ;
  • to be trained throughout life.

This type of education is usually undertaken by people who have gaps in their initial education (primary and secondary education) or who are interested in a career change. It is sometimes followed by people who are keen to acquire an additional qualification to supplement their initial training. Distance learning thus caters for a wide range of people of all ages in Belgium and abroad. Special courses are also organised on ad hoc basis for people in hospital or in prison.

Further education

The decree of 17 July 2003 on associative action in the area of further education defines continuing education and the objectives of associations which receive support in this area, emphasising ‘the development of associative action in the area of further education, aiming at a critical analysis of society, the stimulation of democratic and collective initiatives, the development of active citizenship, and the exercise of cultural, social, environmental, and economic rights with a view to individual and collective emancipation by privileging the active participation of the target public and cultural expression’.

The three main aims of part-time secondary arts education are to :

• contribute to pupils’ personal artistic development by promoting an artistic culture through learning various artistic languages and practices ;

• give pupils the means and training that allow them to become artistically independent, thus awakening their personal creativity ;

• provide an education that prepares pupils to satisfy the requirements for access to higher arts education.

Adult literacy education belongs to the further education sector, but is also one of the fields covered by social advancement education. It aims to assist learners in acquiring prerequisites and in updating knowledge relating to reading, writing, and arithmetic, with a view to attending vocational training that leads to a qualification, or basic training. Courses are mainly targeted at people who do not hold a primary education certificate (CEB) or equivalent diploma. Some providers of adult literacy courses also teach French as a foreign language to adults.

Vocational training for workers and job-seekers

In each of the Regions, there is an organisation with responsibility for implementing training policies: these are Forem, and in particular its specialised branch Forem Formation, and the Institute of French-Speaking Brussels for Vocational Training (IBFFP), generally known as Bruxelles Formation. The courses taught at Forem and Bruxelles Formation are intended to increase job-seekers’ and workers’ professional qualifications. Depending on requirements, they consist of either an apprenticeship or a refresher training programme, and cover a wide range of trades in a large number of sectors.

Two public operators offer training courses which are adapted to the specific requirements of the self-employed and small and medium-sized enterprises. In the Walloon Region, the training network of IFAPME, in addition to its role in initial dual vocational training (apprenticeships, company management courses, etc.), also organises continuing training for the self-employed and for small and medium-sized enterprises, with the help of the training centres. EFPME (the Training Centre for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) serves the Brussels-Capital Region. The training provided in the continuing training centres for the self-employed and small and medium-sized businesses aims to impart the general knowledge of professional management that is needed to carry on an independent profession that is eligible for representation at the Higher Council for Independent Professions and SMEs, or to occupy a management position in an SME involved in handicraft, commerce, intellectual professions, or provision of services. The range of training also includes training in setting up a business, accelerated management training (for those starting up or taking over a business), and a preparatory year of training as a company manager. This is targeted at young people who have the general aptitude to access training as a company manager. It aims to remedy their lack of basic professional theoretical and practical knowledge.

Admission requirements and learner assessment

Social advancement education in strict sense

The target groups for social advancement education are as follows :

• people in work or job-seekers who have a professional qualification and seek further training, a specialisation, refresher training or training with a view to a change of profession ;

• people with or without professional qualifications who wish to acquire knowledge and skills with a view to personal development ;

• people wishing to reach the required standard of knowledge and skill to take a course ;

• unemployed people who wish at least to maintain their professional qualification and individual skills.

No student can be admitted as a regular student in social advancement education as long as he or she is still required to attend full-time compulsory schooling. Anybody who wants to register must therefore be at least 16 years old (or 15 and have regularly followed the first two years of secondary education) and possess the specified level to follow the chosen training. Nevertheless, young people that are still subject to a part-time schooling obligation (up to 18 years old) must also be registered in full-time education or in a dual vocational education and training centre (CEFA).

Access to certain levels of courses is only granted to pupils who prove that they fulfil the necessary prerequisites and, if required, hold the necessary certificate, grade or qualification as defined. For every training module in tertiary education, there is an educational portfolio that includes an established definition of prerequisite abilities (or credentials which can be deemed to certify these abilities).

In each school, a Study Council decides on admission. It may take into account skills acquired in a teaching process, at an approved training organization, through professional experience, personal or civic training (decree of 29 November 2017 setting the terms and conditions for the valorisation of acquired skills for admission, exemption and award of a certifcate in one or more teaching units in social advancement education).

The valorisation of prior learning allows adults who have the project to return to school to access, among other things, social advancement education, by making the learning path more fluid and, where appropriate, by shortening the duration of studies.

It is a process of evaluation and recognition of knowledge and skills resulting from experience (professional, personal and civic) and/or training, for access to studies, exemption from teaching activities or for the award of a teaching unit certificate.

This applies to all people (workers, job seekers, students, self-employed, etc.) who wish, by choice or by obligation, to make use of the experience they have acquired with a view to obtaining additional skills or even a diploma in social advancement education.

The Study Council, which brings together the school leader and the teacher(s) concerned, takes the decisions relating to the valorization of prior learning :

- for a valorization/admission, the Study Council decides on the mastery of the required prerequisite capacities on the basis of formal documents, an application file for a valorization or, if it considers the documents provided insufficient, on the basis of test(s) ;

- for the valorisation/exemption, the Study Council decides on the mastery of learning outcomes in a teaching unit on the same basis as for admission and possibly accepts the exemption of the candidate to some teaching activities ;

- for a valorisation/certificate award, in case of absence of recognized formal qualifications, the Study Council shall compulsorily evaluate the learning outcomes on the basis of a test. An evaluation file may support the candidate's application.

In the event of success, the candidate will be awarded a Valorisation certificate of success valid in all establishments for social advancement education.

Training courses are organized in modular systems (known as "Regime 1"). These modular systems are made up of one or more capitalizable training units. These units can then be combined with others to achieve an overall set of competencies linked to a profession, professional qualification or academic title. The set of units thus associated constitutes a section.

Assessment in social advancement education is summative and certificative. It is based on end-of-course tests. A student successfully completes a section of training if he or she has obtained certificates of achievement for each of the training units making up the section (capitalization with a view to obtaining a title).

The institution's Board of Studies makes decisions concerning the pedagogical follow-up of students. In accordance with the framework set out in the decree of April 16, 1991, each school's rules and regulations provide for an internal appeal procedure against the decisions of the Board of Studies, based on a written complaint. If the student contests the decision taken following an internal appeal, he or she may lodge an external appeal with a Board of Appeals for Social Advancement Education.

Distance learning

There are no admission requirements for distance learning organized in e-learning.

As regards the preparation for examinations organised by the French Community Examination Board, CEB, CE1D, CESDD and CESS, the courses are developed taking account of the curricula for these examinations. For the most part, they are independent of school textbooks. Revision and mock examination sessions are organised periodically. The success of such preparation depends largely on the judicious choice of the learner’s starting point and the chosen speed of study. To ensure progression, distance learning requires the establishment of a personalised study programme that takes account of the psycho-social profile of each learner. It is the individual supervision from a teacher that makes it possible to stimulate the pupil to put an effort into his/her studying and to accompany him/her as he/she progresses.

As regards preparation for administrative examinations, the design and organisation of the distance courses take the specific nature of the tests into account as far as possible.

Forem and Bruxelles Formation

The professional training organised by the two parastatal organisations Forem and Bruxelles Formation is targeted at adults (over the age of 18) who are in the labour force (workers or job-seekers). In some cases, prior knowledge may be required before starting the course. However, there are no strict conditions in terms of qualifications for gaining admission. People with professional experience or with sufficient knowledge – as determined by the selection tests – are also eligible.

In the Walloon Region, after an application has been submitted to Forem, the decision to admit a candidate to a course is essentially based not only on the candidate’s ability to follow the course and exercise the desired profession, but also on his or her motivation. Medical and psychological examinations may be required depending upon the type of training requested, especially in the secondary sector. In the Brussels-Capital Region, access conditions for training programmes offered by Bruxelles Formation are variable: previous knowledge is generally required, from simple language or calculation tests up to a university diploma, depending on the programme.



The company manager’s course is intended mainly for those with a qualification in a craft-based, commercial or intellectual profession who wish to improve their skills further while preparing to manage a small business. The training is open to adults who have completed their compulsory schooling and have successfully completed an apprenticeship contract, the second stage of general education or the sixth year of vocational secondary education (and have obtained the qualification certificate). If a candidate fails to satisfy the conditions in terms of previous studies or training, he or she may take an admission test. However, specific conditions are set for a number of professions.

Continuing training is intended for the self-employed and company managers.

At-risk groups

At-Risk Groups

The socio-occupational integration scheme (ISP) is aimed at unemployed, low-skilled job-seekers over the age of 18 in both the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region. However, the exact conditions depend on the region and the training agency.

In the Walloon Region, beneficiaries of the scheme must be registered with Forem as job-seekers. The socio-occupational integration agencies (OISPs) are accessible to those who have not obtained the upper secondary education certificate (CESS), or an equivalent or higher qualification, while the on-the-job training enterprises (EFTs) are accessible to those who hold neither the lower secondary education certificate (CE1D), nor the second-stage secondary education certificate (CESDD), nor an equivalent or higher qualification. Moreover, the EFTs can take on anyone entitled to social integration support who meets the same conditions in terms of qualifications as the job-seekers. The Walloon integrated socio-occupational integration scheme also applies to :

• job-seekers who have been unemployed for at least 24 months (the long-term unemployed) ;

• job-seekers who have re-entered the job market after at least three years out of work (returners) ;

• prisoners and those who have been committed, who are due for release within two years ;

• foreigners who have not been ordered to leave the country and who meet the qualification conditions.

Under certain conditions, OISPs and EFTs may be authorised to take on unemployed job-seekers and claimants of work incapacity benefits.

In the Brussels-Capital Region, beneficiaries of the ISP scheme must not have obtained the upper secondary education certificate (CESS) or an equivalent qualification. The EFTs also have the aim of providing basic education and training within a lifelong learning perspective. Their target public is those aged 18 or over who do not hold a second-stage secondary education certificate, and who are either long-term unemployed or recipients of the minimum integration income.

Teaching methods and approaches

Social advancement education in strict sense

Social advancement education mainly takes place following adapted timetables in order to tailor to the learners’ specific needs.  Social advancement education features flexibility in terms of study organisation and is based on :

• an ability-based approach ;

• the modular nature of the training scheme and the way learning programmes are structured around units which carry credits: the content of each section is broken down into units, which consist of a course or a set of courses forming a coherent educational content block in terms of acquisition of knowledge and/or skills ;

• a method of taking account of previously acquired skills, including those acquired through professional or individual experience.

From this perspective, the educational practices involved are characterised by :

• adaptability to learners’ experience and prior knowledge ;

• making use of each individual's contributions, so as to elicit participation ;

• a practical focus, through the reproduction of work situations ;

• endeavouring to ensure success through consecutive blocks of training ;

• functionality by coordinating the techniques taught and employed ;

• a concern to give the learner responsibility and autonomy.

In the area of educational choices, collaboration and partnerships with companies enable social advancement education to operate dual vocational education and training. Collaboration with companies leads to reflection on professional profiles and allows training profiles adapted to all specific situations to be developed.

Distance learning

In general terms, distance learning, organized in e-learning, is a form of individualised education which takes place at times of the student’s own choosing. The student registers freely at any time in the year and manages the work him/herself, setting his/her own pace and timetable.

All e-learning lessons take place via an online learning platform.

Each lesson module consists of approximately 10 sections.

Each section is composed of :

- various contents (texts, images, soundtracks, videos...) ;

- self-control exercises ;

- a homework assignment that will be individually corrected by a teacher who is a specialist in the subject area.

In each lesson module, it is possible to access a self-help forum, to receive specific advice from the tutor, and to contact the tutor by personal message for additional questions on the subject.

For a correct assimilation, it takes about one week of study per section, i.e. 10 to 12 weeks per module.

The e-learning pedagogy is based on regular exchanges between learner and tutor. Feedback from the teacher is essential for optimal learning. In order to progress in the subject, it is necessary to submit the assignment(s) for each section and to pass it/them.

Throughout the lessons, a notebook is available per lesson module so that each learner can situate him/herself in his/her learning.

At the end of each lesson module and provided that the requested assignments have been regularly sent, an end-of-module certificate is awarded.

After having followed the lesson modules, it is possible to register for a Jury of the French Community to obtain a certification.