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Assessment in primary education

Belgium - French Community

5.Primary education

5.3Assessment in primary education

Last update: 28 March 2024

Pupil assessment

Formative assessment is defined as assessment conducted in the course of activity and is an integral part of learning.  It is aimed at appraising the progress made by the pupil and understanding the nature of the difficulties the pupil has encountered; its purpose is to improve, correct or adjust the pupil’s path; it is partly based on self-assessment. Each school allows every pupil the opportunity to progress at his or her own pace.

Formative assessment can be done informally but it can also be based on more systematic tools: self-evaluation sheets, observation grids, questionnaires, ...

Sommative assessment is usually done after one learning sequence and aim at identifying and validating students' achievements.

The summative assessment is done in a formal way and uses systematic tools such as observation grids, questionnaires, projects, ...

The French Community also organises external certificative evaluations which question students on the basis of a test with the same instructions, questions and marking criteria for all. They are linked to the awarding of a Certificate : the Certificate of primary education (CEB : Certificat d’Etudes de Base). The test is compulsory for 

  • all pupils in the 6th grade of primary school in regular education ;
  • pupils in home education who will have reached the age of 12 on 31st August of the current calendar year.

The evaluation is also available :

  • to the 5th graders who will be 12 years old before the end of the calendar year ;
  • by decision of the class council, to pupils in primary and secondary specialized education (forms 2 and 3).

Moreover, assessment is one of the aspects for which educational freedom is guaranteed for each network.  Except for the external evaluation, each Organizing authority may therefore define for the schools which it controls the type and frequency of assessments, the scoring system and the way results are communicated, in compliance with the relevant laws, decrees, and orders. Within each institution, the study regulations or internal regulations establish the procedures for internal evaluations that the educational team puts in place.  However, the practice of formative assessment is obligatory.

Pupils’ regular assessment is based on external certificative assessments, internal assessment procedures used by the controlling authority or the school (school reports) and by the class (formative and summative assessment arrangements introduced by the teachers).

The results of summary assessments are communicated to the pupils and parents via a school report. The intervals at which reports are issued and their content and form are defined by the controlling authority.


The Core Skills, as well as the new references guides of the Common Core, which translate into concrete terms the concept of study level, are meant to help the teaching staff responsible for pupils in a cycle to put into practice continuous formative assessment and summative assessments, and to prepare the pupils for certificative assessment (at the age of 12).

The French Community also organises external non-certificative assessments of pupils’ attainments at the start of the 3rd and 5th primary years. These assessments enable teachers to measure the level attained by the pupils and to adapt their teaching accordingly. The working group in charge of these evaluations is made up of teachers, support and guidance counsellors, members of the Inspectorate and the Administration, and a university research team. This group analyses the results and devises teaching approaches. Some Organizing Authorities also organise assessments for use in the schools for which they are responsible (FédEFoC, City of Liège, etc.).

A Committee on Assessment Tools relating to the References Guides of the Common Core is responsible for producing models assessment tools in line with the expectations expressed in these references guides for the different years of study. These are prepared under the supervision of the Tool Evaluation Committee (consisting of representatives of various Organizing Authorities, the Inspectorate and members of the Administration). The latter provides examples to the teachers (who want) which enable them to calibrate their assessments in line with the references guides at each stage of the curriculum. These assessment tools are directly intended for the use of schools and teachers and are made available to them for illustration purposes: they are a means of informing teachers about the degree of mastery to be achieved in relation to the expectations of the references guides, at different points in the curriculum ; these tools can therefore include assessment criteria and mastery indicators. The tools can be freely downloaded. Teachers remain free to use them.

Various schemes have thus been introduced to ensure that pupils are regularly assessed:  an external certificative assessment at the end of the 6th primary year (CEB) (decree of 2nd June 2006), external non-certificative assessments, international surveys (the PISA, TALIS, PIRLS, etc assessment) and, finally, internal assessment procedures within the controlling authority or the school (school reports) and the class (summary and formative assessments introduced by the teacher).


Each teacher assesses his or her own pupils in light of his or her objectives and teaching. Assessment is usually carried out after one or several learning sequences. A school report is sent to the parents, informing them of the results achieved, academic progress, learning behaviour, and personality development. Exam results are noted in the report in addition to observations and formative assessment remarks.

The majority of primary schools organise exams every year, but some do so only at the end of each cycle. Exam methods are variable. Exam authoring is generally handled by the class teacher, but consultation with teachers from other sites or of other academic years is more frequent for exams administered at the end of a cycle. A first summary assessment may be conducted at the end of the 2nd primary year.

To organise assessment tests, classes may be suspended for a maximum of 10 days per year in the 5th and 6th primary years; and for a maximum of 5 days per year in the 2nd and 4th primary years. On these days, pupils are expected to attend school normally.

Progression of pupils

Pre-primary and primary education and the first three years of secondary education form a pedagogical continuum.

This set-up is intended to enable each child to progress continuously through schooling, at his or her own pace and without repeating any years, from the beginning of pre-primary school until the end of the third year of secondary education, acquiring within each of these phases the essential learning set out in the references guides of the Common Core defining the expectations for each year of study.

Certain pupils need more time than the usual period of schooling to acquire the expectations required at the end of each year. In order to take account of each child’s individual pace of learning, schools have the option to enable pupils to receive one extra year to master all the expectations. There is no limit to the number of extra years a pupil can benefit from, but this process must remain exceptional. It can only be triggered when the student has benefited from increased support throughout the school year, and the strategies put in place by the teaching team have still not enabled the student to overcome his or her difficulties.

The teaching staff, by agreement with the parents, can then use this measure, in the light of the child’s individual situation.

However, such a measure must be treated as exceptional, and should not result in a simple repetition of the study year. In the additional year, the student must receive specific support from the educational team to help him or her succeed.


All pupils enrolled in the sixth year of ordinary primary education are subject to the common external test leading to the certificate of primary education (‘certificat d’études de base’ or CEB), so that all pupils are evaluated and certified on the same basis. Minors subject to the compulsory education requirement and receiving home schooling must be enrolled for this common external test at the latest in the school year during which they will reach the age of 12.

The access to the CEB is also possible for the 5th graders who will be 12 years old before the end of the calendar year , as well as for pupils in primary and secondary specialized education (forms 2 and 3), by decision of the class council.
At present, the common external test relates to the mastery of the skills expected on the completion of the second phase of compulsory education (Core Skills) and must include questions on French, mathematics, introduction to science and introduction to history and geography, including social and economic life. From the 2025-2026 school year, the common external test will be based on the expectations set out in the new references guides of the Common Core, and should eventually cover all eight skill areas.

The test is devised by a working group chaired by the general inspector of primary education, which also determines the conditions under which the test is taken and marked and the pass criteria: the conditions must be the same in every place where the test is taken (however, the arrangements for taking the test may be adapted to the specific situations of pupils suffering from sensory and/or motor disabilities).

A competent panel of examiners is formed by each inspector to record passes and failures resulting from the application of the rules on the taking of the test and to deliberate only in cases where a failure is associated with a chance event which occurred while the test was being taken.

A panel is also formed within each ordinary primary education institution. This panel is required to issue the CEB to every pupil enrolled in the 6th year of primary education who has passed the common external test. It may decide to award the CEB to a pupil enrolled in the 6th year who has not passed or has been unable to take all or part of the common external test: where this is the case, it bases its decision on a dossier containing copies of the pupil’s school reports for the last two years, a detailed report by the pupil’s teacher including his or her recommendation on whether the CEB should be awarded and any other consideration that the panel considers relevant.

When the CEB is not awarded to a pupil, the communication to the parents of this decision must be accompanied by the following: the grounds for the arrangements for a meeting to be organised by the school to explain the reasons for the decision and inform the parents on the future of the child’s schooling, and information about how to appeal against the decision (legislation provides for an external appeal).

Possession of a CEB is not a condition for admission to secondary education: if the common first stage is organised for pupils who hold the CEB, a differentiated first stage is arranged for pupils who do not hold it and do not satisfy the conditions for enrolment in the common first year: the main aim of this differentiated first stage is to enable such pupils to obtain the CEB. Once the certificate has been gained, the pupil is steered into the common first stage.


The CEB (Certificate of primary education) is recognized by the French Community.