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Eurydice

EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Ongoing reforms and policy developments

Belgium - French Community

14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

Last update: 29 May 2023

This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2021.

The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organized and who are the main actors in the decision-making process.

The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms provides an overview in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels :

  • Early childhood education and care (see 14.1.);
  • School education (see 14.2.);
  • VET and Adult learning (see 14.3.);
  • Higher education (see 14.4.);
  • and Transversal skills and Employability (see 14.5.).

Inside each thematic area, reforms are organized chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.

Overall national education strategy and key objectives

In addition to the reforms established and described in the following sections, the French Community adopted on 09/09/2019 its Declaration on Community Policy (CPD) (2019-2024).

Each measure should empower all, contribute to the reduction of inequalities and encourage the participation of children, young people and families, with particular attention to the most vulnerable people. The Government is committed to defining a five-year plan to fight against poverty in collaboration with the stakeholders in the sector, with a particular focus on child poverty.

The preparation of the young people, of all young people, for the demands, issues and opportunities of the future will be at the heart of concerns, particularly with regard to technological, climatic and democratic challenges.

The French Community, through excellence in teaching and a democratized culture, will do everything to emancipate them and prepare them for the world of tomorrow. It has a key role to play in the economic redeployment of Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region. The continuation of the economic redeployment of the two Regions necessarily requires quality education, which requires, among other things, greater trust in local stakeholders and training linked to the world of work. It will specifically ensure that training is appropriate for the trades, particularly those in shortage.

The French Community will contribute to making everyone aware of the climate emergency and the need for an ecological transition. The French Community will make a substantial contribution to ongoing efforts to rethink our lifestyles and consumption patterns and to prepare for new environmental occupations and the use of clean technologies.

The school contents and skills to be acquired will integrate the challenges of the future the best way possible: the fight against global warming and the preservation of biodiversity, the challenge of new technologies and digitalization, the need for a renewed democracy, the socio-economic development, strengthening citizen participation.

Education, the main competence exercised by the French Community, will of course remain the absolute priority. Through the Pact for Excellence in Teaching, students will receive learning and knowledge that is equal to the challenges ahead. The Government will seek additional means to fight against early school leaving, but also to enable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to free themselves and overcome all kinds of determinisms.

 

During the conclave on the 2022 budget, the Government of the French Community agreed on the need to intensify measures aimed at the younger generations through a "Childhood-Youth Plan 0-25" (Plan Enfance-Jeunesse 0-25). This plan, presented at the end of November 2021, aims to reinforce investments in favour of children and youth.  The French Community's action benefits children and young people for the most part. The health crisis and its consequences have not spared children and young people. Despite the French Community's efforts to maximise the presence in class in compulsory education, higher education and social advancement education, the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of pedagogy and well-being are regularly highlighted by education professionals. The crisis has also had varying degrees of impact on the educational pathways of pupils and students.  Economically, young people have also been affected, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom the loss of income linked to the crisis has had the greatest impact.  While many emergency measures have been taken in the various sectors since the beginning of the crisis to mitigate its negative impacts, the resources released under the "Childhood-Youth Plan 0-25" must allow for the redeployment of sectors to help children and young people to cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and to progress towards the emancipation and the development of their potential.  The French Community must also take ambitious measures to respond to the consequences of climate change. The climate transition is at the heart of investments in the French Community.  Despite a difficult budgetary context for all public authorities, the Government wishes more than ever to give itself the means to meet its ambitions through investments and reforms that are equal to the challenges of tomorrow.  Faced with the many challenges and given the competences relating to 'childhood' and 'youth' for which it is responsible, the French Community had to provide ambitious responses. This is the objective of the measures adopted by the Government in the framework of the "Childhood-Youth Plan 0-25". This plan, which is transversal, covers all the fields of daily life of children and young people in the French Community in order to support them in their development, their well-being and their emancipation.  Among the measures of the "Childhood-Youth Plan 0-25", we can mention : 1. School buildings  A large investment plan with the main objective of the energy transition of buildings has been launched by the Government via the European recovery and resilience plan.  

2. Digital  The development of digital technology in French-speaking education is a major challenge and an essential issue for the French Community. This is why the Government has, in a structural and permanent manner, provided financial resources to support French-speaking pupils in the digitalisation of learning and to reduce the digital divide among the under-25s.

3. Education  If, after the first containment, 100% face-to-face teaching was maintained for all pupils in pre-primary and primary education, they were not spared the psychological and social consequences of the health crisis. A double support, academic and emotional, pedagogical and educational, was therefore essential for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. An additional reinforcement of the means granted to the teaching, educational, paramedical, social and psychological teams, up to a total of 12 million euros, has therefore been made available in primary education.  26,923,077 for the school year 2021-2022 to provide targeted and increased pedagogical, educational and psychosocial support for pupils in ordinary and specialised secondary schools was obtained as part of the negotiations under the European recovery plan.  These resources were added to those already allocated the previous school year for remedial and psycho-social support (19 million).  These exceptional measures are linked to the systemic reform projects of the Pact for Excellence in Teaching. This is the flagship project in education and represents more than 275 million in investments in 2022.  These resources will in particular be devoted to reinforcing the supervision of pre-primary education in order to provide the best possible support for children from the moment they start school and to reinforcing the provision of free equipment.  2.6 million have also been set aside to launch a call for projects to fight bullying at school. 

4. Education/Sport/Culture  The operation "Plaisir d'apprendre" (Pleasure of learning) makes it possible to support the organisation of remedial activities and school support coupled with sporting and/or cultural activities during the summer holidays throughout the French Community. The operation promotes the organisation of school and leisure activities. It also contributes to the objectives of equal opportunities and the fight against poverty. Finally, the "Pleasure of learning" operation encourages collaboration between the communes and their Education and/or Youth services and local actors in the Children, Youth, Culture and Sports sectors. It has a budget of 1 million euros in 2022. 

5. Higher education  The Government decided to boost the refinancing of Higher education and scientific research. Initially planned at 50 million by 2024, it will be higher, with 50 million from 2022, 70 million in 2023 and 80 million in 2024. These additional financial resources will make it possible, among other things, to improve the supervision of students and the quality of the training offered, and to guarantee accessibility for all. In this context, 6 million euros more have been specifically dedicated to support for success, with priority given to students in their first year of Bachelor, as this is a question of supporting this group of students who were particularly affected by the health crisis, and of facilitating their integration into Higher education. These resources will henceforth be structural and will bring the resources dedicated to support for success to 89 million euros per year.  The reform of the landscape decree, which aims to better mark out the beginning of the higher education pathway in order to fight against the lengthening of studies and late dropouts, also aims to fight against student insecurity.  Furthermore, the Government has also decided to strengthen the means to guarantee and widen access to higher education regardless of economic background. To this end, the 'Study Allowances' budget will be increased by 9.2 million euros in 2022 and additional resources will be provided to improve information and communication on existing aid. 

6. Childhood  Through the implementation of the Birth and Childhood Office (ONE)’s management contract 2021-2025, the Government has undertaken a major refinancing of the childhood's sector. This text places all children, their well-being and their development at the heart of its concerns.  In budgetary terms, more than 72 million euros will be mobilised at the end of the legislature for the implementation of new policies.  To this end, from 2022 onwards, childcare facilities will benefit from more than 15 million additional funds to improve the supervision of childcare facilities. The free-time childcare sector will also benefit from an extra million. 

7. Culture  In accordance with the commitments of the Declaration on Community Policy, the Government will continue to improve the realisation of the cultural rights of every citizen, from the earliest age. It is indeed essential to support access to and participation in culture for everyone from childhood onwards.  On the other hand, the French Community must be able to put in place measures to allow young artists to start a professional career despite the context and the crisis that violently impacted the sector in which they were planning to work.

8. Media and media literacy  The Government is working on a transversal plan for media literacy, many of whose measures concern children and young people. Its implementation will begin in 2022. Funding for the first measures is thus planned. 

9. Women's rights  The deconstruction of gender stereotypes and representations, from the youngest age, is a priority of the French Community. To this end, 105,000 euros have been set aside to finance awareness campaigns on gender stereotypes and power relations. Part of this amount will be devoted to the training of operators in the various sectors of the French Community. 

10. Youth support  5.7 million have been allocated to support the youth welfare services which continue to provide assistance to children and young people in difficulty or at risk. 

11. Youth  A major consultation process, launched at the end of the Youth Conferences, should lead to an Interministerial Youth Conference which will be an opportunity for the various levels of Government to take up the voice of young people.  In addition, almost 2 million euros have been made available to strengthen the structural funding of operators and develop their actions for the benefit of youth. 

12. Houses of Justice In this sector, the emphasis has been placed, in particular, on the link between the child, the family and the parents, even in conditions of incarceration. Several projects have been or will be launched with various operators (for a total amount of 1.4 million euros). 

13. Sport  In the field of sport, various actions have been implemented to  - Raise awareness and promote the encouragement of young people and women to practice sport but also to train. Annual amount: 100,000 euros ;  - Train managers: this is a call for projects aimed at sports federations in order to raise awareness, recruit and train young people for the position of trainer in order to renew the sports managers in the French Community. Annual amount: 500,000 euros. 

14. Equal opportunities  In terms of equal opportunities, the Government's ambition is to gradually build up a network of accommodation centres in the French Community with a view to helping young people become independent as they move into adulthood. This is a cross-cutting project involving various competences that makes it possible to reach all young people aged 18-25 who may be experiencing social, mental or financial difficulties.  In addition, the Government has also decided to strengthen the measure to provide free school meals. 12,500,000 will be allocated to healthy food in schools. 

15. International relations  The Government is keen to improve the mobility of young people. In this context, financial aid for young people for mobility projects (outside the school framework) and outside EU Erasmus and European Solidarity Corps (ESC) projects via the International Youth Bureau is being implemented.  

 

Moreover, the strategic directions of the Walloon Government for the period 2019-2024 are detailed in its Declaration of Regional Policy (DPR).  Broadly speaking, it provides for :

- drastically reducing poverty and offering each Walloon citizen a decent life ;

- making Wallonia an exemplary region in the fight against global warming ;

- enabling the Region to become one of the most efficient industrial reconversion regions in Europe.

 

More specifically, with regard to training and employment, the following measures are planned :

- The vocational integration centres will be sustained ;

- The DPR forecasts a 5% increase in the employment rate over 5 years ;

- The Forem will be the subject of a reform designed to better assist job seekers in their search ;

- The volume of employment and funding will be maintained for the people employed under the “Aid to promote employment” system ;

- The zero sexism, jobs in short supply, the “Research and Development”, the redeployment of industrial policy and digitalization will also be at the heart of the regional employment policy.

 

In the Brussels-Capital Region, the Government, in its Declaration of Regional Policy (DPR), sets out three main lines of action that will guide its action over the next five years :

- a region that guarantees to everyone the conditions for a life in conformity with human dignity ;

- a region that is part of a reference environmental transition in terms of economic and social development by 2050 ;

- a region with a strong identity, open to the world, which reinforces its services to citizens in a logic of readability and proximity of its institutions.

Overview of the education reform process and drivers

The education reform process is described in the paragraphs 14.1. to 14.5.

Regarding childcare facilities, responsibility 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.

With regard to education, most powers are exercised by the Communities, although specific aspects concern other levels of power.

It will be recalled that the education and training systems fall within the competence of the various federated entities in French-speaking Belgium (the French Community, the Walloon Region and the French Community Commission of the Brussels-Capital Region or Cocof).

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 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.).

At the different levels of education, the administration is responsible for administering different areas such as :

• 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 ;

• etc

Within the Ministry of the French Community, it is the General Administration of Education (AGE) that performs the functions related to education.

The Regions

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.

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 characterized by the diversity of students’ ages.

For more information on educational governance in the French Community of Belgium, see 2.6.

 

COVID 19 crisis

As Covid-19 crisis had a major and unique impact on education systems in 2020, but also (to a lesser extent) in 2021, this point is kept in this chapter.

During the Covid 19 crisis, the three Belgian Communities were all involved in the decisions at National level.

The starting point of the approach of the Belgian Communities is to guarantee the right to learn of every child, every pupil in pre-primary, primary and secondary education. Belgim wants to maximalise the teaching time in class. A digital/distance offer is a good addition, but real distance learning is an alternative only if it is required by the health and safety regulations.

Schools at every level were closed as from 16th March 2020 in Belgium.  However, Schools and early childhood care centres provided a childcare service for families working in so-called "essential" sectors (health care, distribution, etc.), families who had no other childcare solution and for social situations.

Thereafter, depending on the health situation, different scenarios were implemented.

Several measures were also implemented :

- Wearing a mask ;

- Social distancing ;

- Disinfection or hand washing ;

- Ventilation of premises ;

- reducing attendance at their infrastructure in Higher Education.

In pre-primary, primary and secondary education, schools remained mostly fully open.  However, there were periods when they were completely closed for several days.  Finally, teaching was also done in hybrid form when full face-to-face teaching was not possible.

The Covid measures have no longer been applicable in education in Belgium since the beginning of 2022.

 

TOOLS AND RESOURCES :

In the context of the crisis linked to the coronavirus epidemic, several tools and resources exist, were reinforced or even created in order to ensure the continuity of learning and evaluation, and particularly “e-classe”.

e-classe is the platform of educational resources created by the French Community in partnership with RTBF/Sonuma for the educational community. Its catalogue of contents is constantly being enriched and includes :

  • external evaluations, teaching methods, educational research, guides, tool files, etc. from the General Education Administration ;
  • audio-visual resources from RTBF, Sonuma and Arte ;
  • educational files, information guides and teaching aids produced by the Services and General Administrations of the Ministry of the French Community ;
  • pedagogical resources and tools selected by the Consortia of universities and higher education institutions ;
  • articles and resources specific to e-classroom, such as a monthly selection of digital educational tools and applications.

The resources cover all subjects and levels of compulsory education (from pre-primary to secondary education). They are validated for their pedagogical potential and guaranteed to respect copyright. Themes are regularly created to bring together several articles, resources, videos, etc., related to current events. Access to the platform is free, and reserved for holders of a teacher's number.

 

In Higher Education, the aim was to keep the academic calendar as much as possible to avoid wasting time for students whose learning path was already well advanced before the entry into force of the lockdown - and in particular, to avoid delaying the graduation of students who are in their final year - while ensuring equality between students presenting the same examination.

To achieve this objective, different provisions were adopted in order to grant flexibility to higher education institutions to pursue as far as possible their learning activities while taking into account the diversity of situations of students, while by establishing guidelines and safeguards in order to guarantee information to students and equality between all students.

As far as possible, internship activities in higher education have been be maintained, in particular for students enrolled at the end of the cycle, the aim being to enable the fastest access to the profession.

 

As far as Adult Education is concerned, the main goal was to maintain, as far as possible, the calendar of the academic year in order to allow future graduates to enter the labor market or to continue their professional retraining project. The measures decided aims to limit the impact of the pandemic on the learners and to avoid a lengthening of studies which would generate an increased risk of precariousness among learners of social advancement education.

 

REFERENCES :

All information and measures regarding the coronavirus crisis can be found with the link provided hereunder : 

Coronavirus : https://www.info-coronavirus.be/fr/