There are various childcare facilities for children under the age of three: these include day nurseries, registered childminders, and municipal childcare centres.
Ordinary education is divided into four levels, which correspond to age groups. Two of these levels form pre-secondary education:
- Pre-primary education (also known as nursery school) for children aged two-and-a-half to six.
- Primary education for children aged six to twelve.
Secondary education is for young people aged twelve to eighteen and over:
- Full-time secondary education is organised in two-year stages. The first is called the observation stage, the second the orientation stage and the third the determination stage. Some institutions provide ‘traditional’ secondary education, which consists of six years split into two three-year cycles.
- Secondary dual vocational education and training is also organised for young people aged 15/16 and older; the small and mid-sized businesses also organise dual vocational education and training.
In addition to full-time ordinary education, there are also :
- Specialised education, for disabled people aged three to twenty-one or older, organised at the pre-primary, primary, and secondary education levels;
- Part-time arts education, known as ‘socio-cultural advancement’ education. This form of education is organised at the secondary and higher (short-type) levels;
- Education for social advancement, designed for young people and adults who have left the school system and wish to acquire new qualifications or update their competencies; or also to obtain a qualification that they did not earn during their schooling. This type of education is organised at the secondary level (including specialised education) and the higher level (short and long). Since the extension of the compulsory education period, it may also target young people aged 15/16, who have satisfied their full-time compulsory education obligation and enter a part-time stream.
Higher education, with different courses of varying duration, is provided for young people aged eighteen to twenty-five and over. It is subdivided into university and non-university education. There is long-type and short-type non-university education. The long type is of university level.
Finally, outside the education system, there are courses for adults.
On the other hand, an alternative pathway to get the certificates is organised by the French Community's juries for students who do not fit into a 'classic' schooling pathway, or who have had to interrupt it. This system of tests allows them to obtain the certificates necessary to continue their schooling or to find a job. The juries of the French Community organise tests for different certificates. However, it should be noted that the jury does not issue certificates of qualification or access to the profession (basic management). The jury does not organise any courses, only examinations. Candidates for the jury must train themselves, for example by means of distance learning via the website http://www.elearning.cfwb.be.
The law regulates compulsory education. Every underage child must attend school from the school year during which he or she turns 5 until his or her 18th birthday (legal age).
Attendance is full-time until age 15/16 and includes a maximum of seven years of primary education and at least the first two years of full-time secondary education. Only children who did not attend the first two years of secondary education by age 15 are required to remain in full-time education until age 16. If a 15-year-old pupil has completed the second year of full-time secondary education (even without successful completion), then he or she no longer falls under the obligation of compulsory full-time school attendance. In no case is compulsory full-time school attendance extended beyond age 16.
The requirements for part-time compulsory school attendance are met when the teenager attends full-time secondary education or dual vocational education and training or another programme recognised as meeting the compulsory schooling requirements.
A committee examines applications for compliance of training programmes with the compulsory schooling requirements. The programme must include at least 360 hours per year if it is attended before the end of the school year in which the minor subject to compulsory education reaches age 16; and at least 240 hours per year if it is taken between 1 July of the year in which the minor subject to compulsory education reaches age 16 and the end of the school year in which he or she reaches age 18. The programme must be educational and prepare the student to engage in an occupation. The list of recognised training programmes is published in the Belgian Official Gazette: they are mainly the apprenticeship schemes organised by independent professions and the programmes taught in dual vocational education and training centres or CEFAs.
Attendance of pre-primary education is not compulsory, but pupils who attend nursery school during the first year of their compulsory education are required to attend on a regular basis.
Minors subject to the compulsory education obligation who are not enrolled either in a school institution organised or subsidised by the French Community or recognised as dispensing education satisfying the compulsory education obligation fall into the category of home schooling. This is subject to inspection of the level of studies performed by the General Service of Inspection (on the basis of the sets of standards defined by the Missions Decree, 24 July 1997), of the pursuit of the objectives assigned for compulsory education by the aforementioned decree, and of the use of fundamental texts. Minors classified as receiving home schooling must be enrolled for various tests according to their age (the common external test held with a view to obtaining the primary education certificate, and the examinations held with a view to obtaining orientation certificates assessing the first stage).Should the minor fail these tests, he must be enrolled in an education institution.
The subject of home schooling is governed by the decree of 25 April 2008 laying down the conditions for being able to satisfy compulsory schooling outside of education organised or subsidised by the French Community, with the exception of the rules laid down in articles 18 to 20 which will be progressively repealed with the entry into force of the common core curriculum. Home schooling allows children of compulsory school age residing in the Brussels-Capital Region or the Walloon Region to continue their schooling outside a school organised or subsidised by the French Community.
Thus, minors may, under certain conditions, satisfy the compulsory schooling requirement by being "home schooled" (instruction by the parents, by a tutor, in an unrecognised private school, or in a youth protection institute, for example).
Home education requires a declaration, based on a compulsory model, which must be submitted by 1st October in the school year. In addition to the declaration requirement, those responsible for the minor of compulsory schooling age are subject to two other obligations:
- to submit the minor for the inspection of the level of studies;
- to obtain various certificates at the ages laid down by legislation, from 12 years old and above.
In the event of health, learning or behavioural problems, or when the minor is suffering from a motor, sensory or mental handicap, the level of education to be attained can be adapted. In such cases, parents must submit a reasoned request to this effect, together with the declaration of home schooling.
People providing home education don't have to have a specific qualification and no minimum level of education is required.
Distance Learning (Home education) is organized in E-learning. This is a non-compulsory type of education. It is an alternative and/or complementary offer to compulsory education, regulated by the decree "E-learning" of 13 July 2016. Its main missions are to prepare for the tests of the juries of the French Community as well as the external tests organized by the French Community.
The Distance Learning/E-learning teaching offer meets the needs of an audience of young people following home or similar education (hospitalization, travel, high-level students athletes, ...) or adults who do not wish or cannot integrate classroom teaching (compatibility with professional and/or private activity...).
Distance Learning/E-learning is also aimed at students who wish to benefit from remediation, academic support or an upgrading/excelling of subjects.
E-learning in the French Community offers all the advantages of online teaching with individual tutoring by teachers.
The lessons’ modules cover all the subjects of the official primary and secondary school curricula for full-time education organized by the French Community: French, mathematics, foreign languages, sciences, etc.
These lessons’ modules are dynamic and interactive. They offer modularization in short units (10 hours of learning), multimedia content, activities with immediate feedback, assignments submitted and corrected online.
The online training platform is available all year long. Learners are individually accompanied by temporary teachers with the required teaching titles. Their role includes all the dimensions of educational tutoring: reception, mobilization, relationship with the learning group, assistance in mastering the technical environment, formative evaluation, etc.
The progress of learners in the modules is conditioned by the completion of all the activities proposed and the achievement of the required level of success of the work requested.
People providing home education don't have to have a specific qualification and no minimum level of education is required
The controls of the level of studies occur at least at 8 and 10 years old. However, they may be required at any time by the Government (and the Administration) or the General Inspection Service.
The General Inspection Service gives an opinion about the level of studies. If it is inadequate, the Commission for Distance Education, in accordance with the defined procedure, decides if the minor must be enrolled in an educational institution.
The number of home-schooled children is very low (0.2 % of the whole school population).