Changes to Belgium’s political structures have had an impact on the management of education in particular.
From a united Belgium to a federal state
The Kingdom of Belgium, a constitutional parliamentary monarchy, was a united State at the time of its creation in 1830. Soon, however, a Flemish movement made demands including official recognition of the use of the Dutch language. In 1962, a linguistic boundary was defined between the Dutch-speaking North and the French-speaking South. The bilingualism of Brussels and its 18 surrounding municipalities was formally acknowledged, and a German-speaking area was defined in the eastern part of the country. Moreover, a Walloon movement demanded political and economic control over the industrial redeployment of Wallonia. In response to these linguistic, political and economic aspirations, five constitutional amendments, introduced in 1970, 1980, 1988, 1993 and 2001, gradually changed the political structures, and Belgium has now become a fully-fledged federal State (Article 1 of the Constitution - coordinated version of February, 17, 1994).
The federated entities
Maps of the Federal Entities
Three Communities were created: the French Community, the Flemish Community and the German-Speaking Community (Article 2 of the Constitution). The decisive factors in determining these Communities are culture and language.
Three Regions were also created at the same time: the Flemish Region (in the north), the Walloon Region (in the south) and the Brussels-Capital Region (in the centre) (Article 3 of the Constitution). The decisive factor in defining a Region is territorial.
Although historically speaking the Brussels-Capital Region is located in the Flemish part of the country, the majority of its population is French-speaking. The German-Speaking Community (about 75,000 inhabitants) is part of the territory of the Walloon Region.
Competence for education and training
Belgium’s political evolution had significant repercussions on the organisation of education. The federalisation of the State led to the transfer of nearly all responsibilities concerning education to the Communities in January 1989. The only remaining federal responsibilities are setting the beginning and end of compulsory schooling, the minimal conditions for awarding diplomas, and the pension scheme.
Competence for training lies with the Regions (the Walloon Region and the French Community Commission of the Brussels-Capital Region for training in French).
A founder-member of the European Union
Belgium was one of the group of six countries which, in the early 1950s, established the European Coal and Steel Community (Treaty of Paris, 18 April 1951). It is based on this first action that today’s European Union was subsequently created.