Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Adult education and training funding

Belgium - French Community

3.Funding in education

3.3Adult education and training funding

Last update: 27 November 2023

Main funding principles

Social advancement education

Subsidies from the French community

Training sections and units are approved for subsidies by decision of the general official responsible for social advancement education, on the advice of the inspection service, after the training in question has been duly inspected from the educational viewpoint. For institutions in the French Community network, a financial grant is allocated by the administration for management purposes. This grant is also calculated on the basis of the number of pupils, but the training which is provided, even if it does not have to follow the admission procedure, is still inspected by the inspection service.

Students whose regular attendance is attested by the verification service create an entitlement, for an institution in the grant-aided networks which has provided them with training, to operating subsidies calculated on the basis of the number and category of periods attended. From these subsidies, a deduction is made of the registration fees, which are deemed to constitute an advance on the subsidy. Any excess registration fee money is reimbursed and paid to the Treasury.

As training sections and units may be organised either continuously or occasionally at any time of year, it is necessary to supervise the budget that is made available. To do this, a grant of notional periods (of 50 minutes each), calculated on the basis of the periods used two years previously, is allocated each calendar year to the controlling authorities, which distribute them between their institutions. Each institution informs the administration of each course that it starts, and submits figures concerning pupil numbers, the corresponding use of periods and data on the teachers concerned. The periods used are assigned coefficients which increase proportionately depending on whether they are used for courses at lower secondary, upper secondary, short-type higher or long-type higher level. All these data are checked by the verification service and encoded. At any time of year, the administration, the controlling authorities and the schools may consult the encoded data and thus check on their use of the periods fund. A school which exceeds the periods total that has been allocated to it at the end of the year is penalised accordingly during the next two years, but period loans are authorised between controlling authorities within networks until the end of the calendar year.


The controlling authorities of social advancement education may also form agreements with other education institutions, organisations, bodies, companies, persons or associations. The partner may cofinance all or part of the training. A rate for the cost of the teaching period, per level of education and per course category, is published whenever there is a change in the consumer price index. Non-financed periods are deducted from the institutions’ periods endowment. The partner may also provide the institution with material resources needed for training, or make its premises available.

Positive discrimination

Under the terms of the decree of 30 June 1998 on ensuring all pupils equal opportunities of social advancement, notably through the implementation of positive discrimination (Article 54), the Government issues a list of institutions or sites which benefit from positive discrimination, on the proposal of the Higher Council and on the basis of the number or proportion of unemployed people on full benefits or job-seekers who are exempt from the registration fee.

Additional resources are provided to these institutions:

  • Human resources (additional period allocations enabling them to take on or designate teachers, among other things in order to reduce the size of learner groups, or the recruitment of contract staff for light rehabilitation work or assistance for auxiliary or teaching staff);
  • Material resources to enable teaching or computer equipment to be acquired that is indispensable to the completion of positive discrimination projects.

Positive discrimination projects develop solidarity-based behaviour, and relate to at least one of the following themes:

  • the introduction of actions aimed at improving knowledge and/or command of the French language or involving the organisation of adaptation or remediation training units;
  • educational projects involving learners and members of the teaching staff with a view to concrete work in technical and vocational fields at secondary level;
  • projects involving learners and members of the teaching staff at secondary level, with an emphasis on multimedia information and communication technologies.

Distance learning

The Distance Learning Service (EAD) is part of the Ministry of the French Community, and distance learning is financed by this latter.

Training for job-seekers and workers

In each of the Regions, an official body is responsible for vocational training for job-seekers and workers : in the Walloon Region, it is Forem, and for French-speakers in the Brussels-Capital Region, it is Bruxelles formation. Companies contribute to the financing of training with a compulsory fee, calculated as a percentage of the wage bill and paid to a sectoral fund.

The main sources of financing for the actions and services offered by Forem are subsidies provided out of the Walloon Region’s budget, contributions from the European Social Fund, various forms of income (in particular the sale of goods and services resulting from Forem’s activities), companies’ contributions to training costs, the promoters’ contribution in connection with the Unemployment Abatement Programme, the contributions of the Federal Public Service for Employment, Work and Social Dialogue within the framework of cooperation agreements or conventions (the Support for the Unemployed Plan, the National Employment Fund, etc.), and income derived from international relations (in particular in connection with various European programmes).

The Walloon government also finances socio-occupational integration operators, who provide basic training (OISPs and EFTs). The additional financing earmarked for training activities in connection with the implementation of priority actions for the future of Wallonia (2006-2009) (the ‘Marshall Plan’) has mainly been used to fund the training components of the ‘competitiveness clusters’, training courses preparing for ‘bottleneck professions’, the Language Plan, access for pupils and teachers to skills centres, the dual vocational education and training courses of IFAPME and the creation of advanced technology centres.

In addition to income from the federal state under the terms of cooperation agreements and from the ESF, Bruxelles formation receives subsidies, within the limits of the credits earmarked for this purpose in the budget of the French Community Commission, and may also receive bequests, donations and any other income. Bruxelles Formation grants an additional subsidy to bodies which have entered into partnership agreements with it.

Forty-one socio-occupational integration operators and nine local missions are currently authorised and financed by the French Community Commission. These bodies also receive support from Actiris (the Brussels Regional Employment Office) for the counselling and job search components of its work, and cofinancing from the ESF.

IFAPME receives subsidies from the Walloon Region. At European level, it receives subsidies mainly from the ESF and the ERDF. These cover the institute’s running costs, training activities and the centres’ property-related expenses.

In each Region, an official body is responsible for vocational training for job-seekers and workers. In the Walloon Region, Forem is a type B pararegional body. It has been jointly managed by a Management Committee since its creation. The Walloon government (via the minister responsible for training and employment) has supervisory authority. The Board of Directors steers Forem’s various strategic projects. The Chief Executive is responsible for the day-to-day management of the institution. Bruxelles formation is responsible for the provision of vocational training for French-speaking job-seekers and workers in the Brussels-Capital Region. It is overseen by the French Community Commission (Cocof).

During the 2007-2013 programming period, the ESF’s contributions are being used in particular to support training activities and the development of information, guidance and skills validation systems that meet precise criteria.

Within the framework of the interprofessional agreements negotiated at federal level, the social partners have undertaken to devote 1.9% of total payroll costs to training, and to ensure that 50% of workers have access to continuing training between 2003 and 2010. An inspection and penalisation system has been introduced.

Fees paid by learners

Social advancement education

A registration fee was introduced for this type of education in 1986, but many categories of people are exempt: unemployed persons receiving full unemployment benefits, job-seekers and handicapped people, under certain conditions; recipients of social integration support, members of the Belgian volunteer reserve force, students under the age of eighteen, people subject to a requirement imposed by a public authority and members of the management, and teaching or auxiliary personnel in education organised or grant-aided by the French Community who are attending training which is recognised in connection with their function.

The amount of the registration fee is calculated by multiplying the amount in euros set for the corresponding level of education by the number of periods of 50 minutes attended (secondary education: €0.18 per period, with a maximum of 800 periods; higher education: €0.24, with a maximum of 750 periods), plus a fixed sum of €20 per year. Enrolment on vocational courses has been free of charge since 1 September 2009.

Part-time arts education

Enrolment in music and fine arts academies is free of charge for students under 12 years of age or attending primary education, students already enrolled in another academy, students attending full-time artistic secondary education or vocational or technical secondary education (transition or qualification streams) in one of the applied arts or fine arts sections, and for other categories of persons exempted in particular for social reasons. Students aged 12 to 17 years and students regularly enrolled in full-time or part-time secondary education, in higher or social advancement education organised or grant-aided by the French Community benefit from a reduced registration fee (€64 in 2010-2011). For other cases, the registration fee amounts to €159 (the fee is indexed every year). However, exemptions exist, e.g. for pupils under the age of 12, or those aged 12 or over who are enrolled in primary education and unemployed people on full benefits.

Distance learning

Initially, this form of education was entirely free of charge. However, a registration fee has been charged since 1992. Payment of a single registration fee of €37.50 entitles the student to take all courses required for a training project. This sum covers the lessons, the equipment (audio cassettes, CDs, etc.) and individual guidance from a teacher. Certain categories of pupil are exempt from the registration fee: minors subject to compulsory schooling, French-speaking Belgian pupils residing abroad, some categories of unemployed people on full benefits, people in prison or in hospital for a long term, people referred to the courses by a public authority, etc.

Vocational training for job-seekers and workers

Training programmes organised by FOREM and Bruxelles-Formation are free of charge. Trainees who have entered into a training contract with Forem or Bruxelles Formation receive a training allowance, and their travel expenses are covered.

Financial support for adult learners

Paid educational leave 

Full-time employees and some part-time employees in the private sector, as well as some contract workers in an autonomous public company and attending certain forms of vocational training and/or certain general courses may, while continuing to receive their normal pay at the usual times, take paid education leave, on condition that they attend one or more of the courses prescribed by the law, i.e. they are released from work for the sake of the courses they attend to enhance their general or vocational education. This leave is paid for by the employer on the normal payment dates and the employer can obtain reimbursement of these hours from the Federal Ministry of Employment and Labour. A fund financed by both the state and the employers is set up for this purpose.

The training followed does not necessarily have to be related to the activities of the enterprise which employs the worker-learner, to the activity he or she actually performs or to his or her career prospects, but, since the exclusion of programmes related to hobbies in 1993, courses with little professional relevance have tended to be dropped, such as decorative arts, domestic science, beauty care and photography.

Paid educational leave is not subject to any restrictions on age or nationality. An employer who receives a request for paid educational leave is obliged to comply with the request as long as the employee concerned and the targeted training programme satisfy the conditions imposed by the law. Paid educational leave cannot be added to the award of a grant for social advancement education.

From the first year onwards, the duration of paid educational leave corresponds to the number of hours in the course(s) followed (a 50-minute period creates an entitlement to one hour of leave), with yearly maxima (a school year begins on 1 September and ends on 31 August) as described below:

  • 120 or 100 hours for a vocational training course depending on whether or not the training is during working hours.
  • 80 hours for a general training course.
  • 120 or 100 hours for vocational and general training courses followed during the same year depending on whether or not the training is during working hours.

The ceiling for the maximum number of course hours varies according to whether the course hours take place outside normal working hours (120 hours maximum) or within them (180 hours maximum), but, in all cases, the training programme must consist of a minimum of 32 hours a year.

The gross amount of the reimbursement, which is annually adjusted to the consumer price index, is capped, but employers often supplement the amount received by the worker.

Recourse to paid educational leave is the result of a voluntary decision, which the worker takes of his/her own accord. The employer can neither oblige employees to enrol on a training course to which the law applies, nor prevent them from doing so. On the other hand, leave is subject to collective planning in the enterprise.

Paid educational leave is granted for the vocational training courses listed below:

  • social advancement courses;
  • part-time courses in fine arts;
  • short type full-time tertiary education courses held in the evenings or at weekends;
  • first and second cycle university courses, held in the evenings or at weekends;
  • continuing training for the independent professions (company manager training, retraining, advanced training);
  • training courses for workers in the agricultural sector; 
  • preparing and sitting examinations set by the Examination Board of the French Community;
  • sectoral training courses set up by the joint committees;
  • vocational training courses accredited by a statutory approval committee.

Paid educational leave is granted for the general training courses listed below:

  • courses run by trade union organisations;
  • courses run by youth and adult organisations and training institutes for workers created within trade unions;
  • training courses for which the curriculum is accredited by a statutory approval committee.

A worker can lose the right to paid educational leave:

  • if the training is abandoned or interrupted;
  • in the case of irregular course attendance (unjustified absences relating to more than 10% of the number of course hours in any quarter);
  • in the case of fraudulent usage (when the worker carries on gainful activity during the leave);
  • in the case of two successive failures.

The employer cannot dismiss a worker from the moment the request for paid educational leave is made until the end of the training programme, except for grounds that are not related to the request. The employer must prove that such grounds exist.

Incentives for job-seekers

A measure taken by the Federal Government offers unemployed persons, under certain conditions, the possibility of restarting full-time studies while retaining their rights to unemployment benefits and being exempted from registration as a job-seeker. This measure especially concerns unemployed people without a degree who resume full-time studies preparing for a profession in which a significant manpower shortage has been identified. A job-seeker registered with Forem or Bruxelles formation who enters into a vocational training contract may receive the following benefits:

  • the formalisation of the two sides’ commitments;
  • retention of unemployment benefits or social integration payments;
  • reimbursement of travel costs;
  • a training allowance of €1 per hour of training followed (under certain conditions);
  • assistance with day nursery or childminding costs;
  • insurance cover.

FPI (Individual Vocational Training in Companies) in Brussels and PFI (Training-Integration Plan) in Wallonia are intended to enable job-seekers to receive training in companies lasting between 4 and 26 weeks that will enable them to acquire the vocational skills necessary for a job at that company. Under certain conditions, the job-seeker who wishes to undergo training under this scheme but who does not receive either waiting allowances or unemployment benefits may receive a training allowance,  as well as an incentivisation bonus paid by the employer. Job-seekers under the age of 25 who hold no more than a diploma below the third stage of secondary education fall within the scope of PFI Jeunes, and the duration of the Training-Integration Plan may be extended (to up to 52 weeks).

Moreover, CTAs (Advanced Technologies Centres) open their doors to job seekers. The Advanced Technologies Centres (CTA) play an essential role in the training of students in vocational education because they aim at giving these students and their teachers the necessary tools to achieve the required level and bring together the learning and the reality of the working life. Complementing the Walloon skills centers and the Brussels’reference centers, the CTA make available to all educational networks and job seekers, expensive advanced equipment. These centers are also of great importance for the future employers of these young people and for their region, which in an economic and social redeployment effort, must rely on a dynamic and qualified youth, willing to a socio-professional quality integration.

Subsidies for private providers

Private bodies eligible for support from the French community

Non-formal education may be provided by established organisations or services which complement the formal systems (continuing vocational training, art, music or sports classes or private lessons in preparation for examinations, etc.), or may be given in connection with activities, organisations or groups in civil society (youth associations, trade unions, the business sector or political parties).

Under the decree of 17 July 2003, the government of the French Community supports continuing adult education by means of structural subsidisation of non-profit organisations or de facto associations, as well as centres for expression and creativity.

These associations may be recognised under various schemes. The decree organises support for associations whose objective is to promote and develop, mainly in adults, awareness and a critical  approach to social realities, the ability to analyse, make choices, act and evaluate, and attitudes of responsibility and active participation in social, economic, cultural and political life. To receive recognition from the French Community, an association must reflect at least one of the following four themes:

  • civic participation, education and training;
  • training for activity leaders, trainers and voluntary workers;
  • the production of services, analyses and studies;
  • awareness-raising and information.

The following subsidies are allocated to all recognised associations for an open-ended period:

  • A fixed annual activity subsidy, linked to the presentation by the association of a five-year plan reflecting the action theme(s) covered by the association;
  • A fixed annual operating subsidy;
  • If the association has a field of action which covers at least a province or region whose population is at least equal to the number stipulated by the government, a fixed annual employment subsidy.

Associations which are subject to provisional recognition are allocated a fixed subsidy by the government for the activities which are the subject of an agreement, for a maximum period of two years, renewable once if the provisional recognition is renewed.

Private bodies financed by the regional public authorities

In the Walloon Region, socio-occupational integration agencies may be authorised and subsidised either as EFTs (on-the-job training enterprises), or as OISPs (socio-occupational integration agencies). EFTs and OISPs are training centres with non-profit organisation status which are directly dependent on the public welfare centres. In the Brussels-Capital Region, the beneficiaries of the socio-occupational integration scheme attend AFTs (on-the-job training workshops): AFTs are authorised bodies whose activities are subsidised.

Skills centres are the product of partnerships between the Walloon Region, Forem, IFAPME, the social partners in the business sector, research centres and the universities. They are supported by the European Structural Funds. In the Brussels-Capital Region, expertise centres have been set up on similar principles. There are currently five of these.

The Walloon Region also finances the district associations and the regional missions. The district associations are non-profit organisations working in districts characterised by social housing and/or urban regeneration.

Literacy policies

Literacy policies are based on several funding sources:

• the French Community (subsidisation of continuing education associations – see above) ;

• the Regions (mainly through the financing of socio-occupational integration training actions in the Walloon Region, and literacy actions which fall within the social cohesion sector in the Brussels-Capital Region);

• cyclical European funding.

Literacy policies also rely on other initiatives that benefit from public funding: literacy reinforcement in social advancement education, the teaching of French as a foreign language (FLE), initiatives by the public libraries, the EFTs and the OISPs, etc.