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Assessment in vocational secondary education

Belgium - German-Speaking Community

6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.9Assessment in vocational secondary education

Last update: 28 March 2023

Pupil assessment

The educational freedom guaranteed by the constitution also means that each school authority has the right to freely decide about the assessment and evaluation methods in their schools, e.g. whether the evaluation should take place in all subjects or just in one subject, if and how often a testing period should be provided, whether all or some tests should be written or oral, etc. Each school authority is able to decide these issues differently for each school, each level, each stream and field of study. The schools are recommended to collaborate to some extend on these matters in order to avoid too many differences.

Normally, each teacher and/or teaching team assesses their pupils with regard to their goals and their class, both in the lower level (1st level) as well as in different years of the upper level (2nd and 3rd level) of the secondary School. This generally takes place after one or more learning module(s). This way, constant assessment is carried out.

The articles 79 and 80 of the foundational decree of 31 August 1998 place special emphasis on the importance of continuous formative evaluation in all subject, specialities and educational projects. "They are used for providing constant information about the individual development of the pupil on their way to acquiring skills. It provides pupils with important information about how they can improve their learning and working behaviour. It provides the teacher the opportunity to check and, if necessary, adjust their teaching activities. It provides the governing body with important information for the organisation of accompanying measures for pupils. In addition, it provides the governing body with information about how to effectively accompany and support a pupil." The evaluation reference point is thus primarily the development of the pupil and no longer the level of their class mates. This is the concept for success-based pedagogy.

Via the School Inspection and Consultation Council and the teaching team supported by the university and university staff, new evaluation media (tests, surveys, reference tests) should be devised in the near future, which should be made available to teachers.

In addition to formative evaluation, a normative assessment must be carried out at the end of a learning process that serves to "provide information about the extent to which the pupil has achieved and acquired the necessary skills. These assessments are based on standards that are the same for all pupils and they are informed of them prior to their assessment." (Art. 81)

The normative evaluation normally takes place in regular intervals (about every six weeks); this includes Christmas and Summer exams, which are normally conducted in all subjects in all secondary schools. In the Summer exams, it should be tested as to whether the pupil has the minimum skills required for them to successfully continue their studies. A pupil that is still displays too many gaps in some subjects at the end of the school year after the Summer exams sometimes gets the chance to retake at the end of Summer holiday in the last week of August so as to successfully complete the school year, and is then able to progress to the next year and/or receive the leaving certificate.

A school report, normally issued at least four times a year, provides information to the pupil and their parents and governing body about the results aimed for, academic progress, learning and study habits and personality development.

Organising global communicative exams during the school year is recommended for training courses in qualification education (both in technical as well as vocational education) in the upper level of secondary school. These exams promote coordination between theoretical and practical education and, up to a few years ago, they prepared students for a first qualification exam, which was already organised at the end of the second level (year 10) for the purpose of possibly awarding a first qualification certificate. However, due to constantly increasing career requirements today, such a qualification certificate concerning the pupil's sufficient vocational knowledge is no longer awarded at this level; instead, this is done so after the 6th year in secondary school (i.e. after four years of special training; year 12).

There is a close connection between the school and the business world within the framework of technical and vocational education. In addition to the prevocational placement mentioned, this close connection is substantiated through the presence of external jury members in the qualification tests at the end of the sixth year. This judging activities normally last the entire year: Student workers and interns are not just carefully observed by the associated teachers, but also by the business world as well.

There must be continuity between the learning process in the school and in the company. The multi-weekly internship must follow precise criteria. The teacher mentoring throughout the internship provides preparation, support and evaluation. They work together with a HR member of the business, who is responsible for the pupil at the company. The internship is a product of an on-going assessment in different areas and according to criteria that are determined prior to the start. It takes place in the form of a formative evaluation. At the end of the internship, results are submitted (normative evaluation).

Progression of pupils

Even though, since the adoption of the foundational decree of 31 August 1998, secondary schools are organised into three levels of two years each (the 3rd level in vocational education can be three years) and the curriculum for all subjects is divided per level, progression to the next year is currently still decided, according to old tradition, at the end of each school year (in June). Thereby, the decision is formed based on the work completed during the year and the exam results, which are sat out twice a year, every school year, in all subjects. This decision is made by the governing body. The school administration can postpone their decision for some pupils so as to give them the chance to resit their exams at the end of August (since 2005). Theoretically, pupils can repeat every year. According to the decree of 31 August 1998, is it intended that in the future, the decision as to whether the pupil should progress to the next level will only be made at the end of the first level (year 8) and at the end of the second level (year 10).

Up until now, the school still issues an orientation certificate at the end of the first five secondary school years (soon to be at the end of the first and second level) in addition to a certificate. There are three different orientation certificates:

  • Orientation certificate A, which indicates that the pupil has successfully completed the academic year (soon to be the level) and is allowed to progress to the next school year (soon to be the next level). Ideally, Orientation certificate A is completed at the end of the first level according to a report, in which a recommendation is given to the pupil as to which one of the three streams to enter as of the 2nd level and/or which specific fields of study to follow, or which subjects should be avoided;
  • Orientation certificate B, which indicates that the pupil has successfully completed the academic year (soon to be the level), but can only progress to the next year after paying consideration to certain restrictions. These restrictions can affect one or two streams or certain fields of study, or individual subjects that then remain closed to the pupil. The governing body and a PMS Centre consultant provide the pupil with recommendations to help them select a field of study that fits their interests and corresponds to their abilities. If, in the future, an Orientation certificate B should still remain mandatory or just a recommendation in the first level (observation level) is currently being discussed and no decision has been made as yet. A Secondary School decree is in the pipeline.
  • Orientation certificate C, which indicates that the pupil has not successfully completed the academic year (soon to be the level) and is not permitted to progress to the next year. This certificate indicates serious deficiencies. It concludes by giving a recommendation regarding the continuation of full-time school education or the possibility of part-time training: Part-time training in school and in one or multiple businesses or - within the framework of mid-tier organised training - an apprenticeship in a business. Whether, in the future, an Orientation certificate C should be issued in the first level is currently being discussed and a decision has not yet been made.


At the end of the forth secondary school year, the pupil receives a leaving certificate for the lower level of secondary school. This certificate is still issued to all regular pupils that have successfully completed the third and fourth year of vocational education.

The governing body decides whether to award this leaving certificate and in doing so takes into account school performance during the 4th year in all subjects; whereby, the results of both exams (before Christmas and Summer) organised by the school are of special importance.

Vocational education pupils have the option of obtaining the upper level secondary school leaving certificate by means of an additional seventh secondary school year, in which special emphasis is placed on general education subjects.

In addition to these leaving certificates, the qualification certificate for professional employment in vocational education is still awarded at the end of the 6th secondary school year (year 12) after completing a theoretical and practical aptitude test in front of an Examination Board, which includes an external examiner from the associated profession.