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Organisation of post-secondary non-tertiary education

Belgium - French Community

6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.10Organisation of post-secondary non-tertiary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

At the end of the 6th year of secondary education, secondary schools may organise additional years of study :

  • at the end of the third stage of transition-stream education, a 7th year in preparation for higher education ;
  • at the end of the third stage of qualification-stream technical education, a qualifying or complementary 7th year of technical education ;
  • at the end of the third stage of vocational education, a complementary 7th year of vocational education (of type a, b or c).  These 7th years allow students to obtain the certificate of upper secondary education (CESS) and thus access higher education.

A fourth stage is organised in full-time complementary vocational education in some secondary education institutions for certain courses such as studies in nursing. It consists of three years and a half of study, in some cases preceded by a preparatory year.

Some institutions of social advancement education organise complementary secondary vocational education.

Business management training is organised by IFAPME and SFPME.

Types of institutions

See Organisation of Lower Secondary Education

Post-secondary non-tertiary education is organised in some secondary education institutions, in some social advancement institutions (secondary complementary vocational education for social advancement) and for business management course in the rooms of the regional training centres of the Small and Mid-Sized Companies.

Geographical accessibility

No systematic information is available about the geographical distribution of education institutions that organise these various complementary education courses.

In Post-secondary non-tertiary education, IFAPME and SFPME also provide training centres distributed geographically in Wallonia and in the Brussels-Capital Region (see Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education).

Admission requirements and choice of school

Enrolment in an institution of full-time education must take place no later than the first working day in September. Beyond this date, enrolment may be taken for exceptional and justified reasons, assessed by the school head.  In dual vocational education and training, enrolments are accepted throughout the year.

Enrolment is free. However, a specific registration fee is required for pupils and students who are not subject to compulsory schooling and who are not nationals of Member States of the European Communities and whose non-Belgian parents or legal guardian are not resident in Belgium.

Holders of an upper secondary education certificate (CESS) may be admitted as regular students to the 7th qualifying year preparing for tertiary education (the special year of mathematics, sciences, modern languages or performance arts and broadcasting techniques).

The 7th specialisation and/or further development year is open to pupils who have obtained their upper secondary education certificate (CESS), as well as the certificate(s) of qualification, where applicable, at the end of the 6th qualification-stream year of technical or artistic education in the same or in a corresponding study direction.

Pupils who have obtained their CE6P (Certificate of Education), as well as the certificate(s) of qualification, if applicable, at the end of the 6th vocational year may attend a seventh complementary or specialisation year in the same discipline or in a corresponding discipline or a 7th year at the end of which they may gain the certificate of upper secondary education (CESS).

For this 4th stage of studies in nursing, students usually hold the CESS or CE6P.  However, there are also other certificates that allow students to enrol in this section.

The business management course is open to a very varied public. However, it is compulsory to be out of compulsory education in order to follow it. The duration of the course varies according to the specific background and experience of each individual.

There may also be specific registration requirements for some trainings.

Age levels and grouping of pupils/students

Classes in secondary education are theoretically organized by age groups and subjects. However, as pupils may have to repeat a year, classes often include pupils of different ages, particularly in differentiated and vocational education.

Pupils in the complementary or specialisation years who have not had to repeat a year are usually 18-19 years old.

The business management course may be taken directly from 18 years old.  There is no limit of age.

In full-time education, the number of pupils in a class therefore varies according to the grouping of pupils and the options they are offered, but certain maximums have been set by the decree class sizes of 3 May 2012 (décret "Tailles des classes"). These numbers are always lower for laboratory courses, professional practice, as well as when safety so requires.

Years of study


Average to be respected (calculated annually on the basis of the classes organised by degree)

Maximum number of students in each class

7th year in preparation for higher education

All except laboratory courses



Laboratory courses



7th qualification-stream technical and artistic education

All except professional practice



professional practice

16 or 12

19 or 15

When safety requires so



7th vocational education

All except professional practice



professional practice

16 or 12

19 or 15

When safety requires so



Preparatory year for complementary secondary vocational education, section "Nursing" and preparatory year for higher paramedical education




Organisation of the school year

See Organisation of Lower Secondary Education

Organisation of the school day and week

In full-time education

See Organisation of Lower Secondary Education

In the complementary years, the number of 50-minute periods per week varies from 28 to 32 (preparatory years for higher education) or from 28 to 36 (other 7th years).

In the fourth stage of complementary secondary vocational education, the number of periods per week is 36 for each of the three years.  The complementary year at the end of the 3rd year only consists of internships.

In the business management course

The business management course consists of 8 hours of theoretical classes (one day or two evenings) per week. In addition, in all professions for which business management courses are organised, an internship can be arranged: 4 days per week of practical training with an approved head of company.