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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of primary education

Belgium - German-Speaking Community

5.Primary education

5.1Organisation of primary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Geographical Accessibility

Parents can freely choose the school network:

  • Education organized by the Community
  • the Official Subsidized Education
  • the Free Subsidized education

For educational or financial reasons, the various educational networks or educational authorities may agree on coordinating or supplementing the teaching offer.

Schools of the Community are required to enroll each student who:

  • has the Belgian nationality and is resident of the German-speaking Community;
  • is foreigner and permanent resident of the German-speaking Community and is registered as foreigner or waiting for registration.
  • fulfills the conditions of admission.

Municipal Schools (Official Subsidized network) are required to enroll each student who:

  • has the Belgian nationality and are resident of that municipality or in a neighboring municipality of the German-speaking area, if - in the latter case - the school he wishes to visit is the nearest one;
  • is foreigner and registered as this in the relevant municipality and has his permanent residence or permanent residence in that municipality or in a neighboring municipality of the German language area, if - in the latter case - the school he wishes to visit, the nearest one is;
  • fulfills the conditions of admission.

Schools of the Free Subsidized network are required to enroll each student, who:

  • has the Belgian nationality and is resident of the German-speaking Community;
  • is the foreigner is domiciled in the German-speaking Community,
  • fulfills the conditions of admission;

    on the condition that the parent or legal carer agrees with the educational project.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School


To be admitted to primary school, the enrolling pupil must be at least six years old and not yet 15 years old as of 31 December of the current school year. Thus, all children between the ages of five years and eight months and six years and eight months at the start of the school year (1 September) usually start the first year of primary school at the same time.

However, based on the assessment of the governing body (preschool teacher and head teacher) and an advisor from the authorised Psycho-Medical Social Centre (PMS), a child can enrol in primary school one year earlier or remain one year longer in preschool at the age of six, depending on the case and with the consent of the child’s parents.

The primary school usually comprises six school years, though some of the pupils remain in primary school for seven years, or, in very rare instances, for eight years.


  • Community schools (Community network) must in principle take all students
  • Municipal schools (Official Subsidized network) are only required to enroll the children from their own community or from neighboring communities if the school is the nearest school for the student.
  • Catholic schools (Free Subsidized network) can only refuse to enroll a student if the guardians are unwilling to sign the school's educational project. In practice, however, schools usually enroll all students because they are funded or subsidized based on student numbers.

Parents/legal guardians

Parents or legal guardians are entirely responsible for respecting the legislation on compulsory education. As long as the child is not being home schooled, they must ensure that the minor is legally enrolled at a school and attends it regularly. Anyone found in contempt of this obligation can expect to be punished (either fined or jailed for one day to one month).

In the primary school system, parents can oppose the suggestion that their child repeat a certain year. However, the teachers have the final say on deciding to issue the basic education diploma when primary school is completed.

If a pupil required to attend school is expelled from an educational institution, the parents have the option to legally oppose the decision.

  • The records of the administrative bodies could be objects of an action of annulment. Educational institutions subsidised under public law or privately by the Community are treated equally by the administrative bodies. However, the legal process can sometimes take a long time before a judgement is made. The pupil is still required to continue attending school during that time. As a result, a temporary solution is often required.
  • Under civil law, an application can be made for re-admission of the expelled pupil.

Certain protective measures have been implemented regarding pupil’s sanctions:

  • A list of sanctions in the educational institution’s internal school regulations,
  • a reasonable ratio of infringements and sanctions,
  • consulting pupils and – in the case of expulsion from school – the parents,
  • obligatory statement from the governing body.
  • The school head issues the penalty, however, it is possible to appeal the decision.

Age Levels and Grouping of pupils

Grouping of Pupils

Class and year formation is unrestricted.

The head teacher and the school's Pedagogical Council decide on the number of classes and how pupils are organised into classes (according to age group or level). Legal conditions only apply to classes for religious and moral education.

The classes of most larger primary schools are grouped according to age. Hence, there are six classes of age groups (school years 1 to 6) with one or more classes per school year depending on the number of students and the decision of the school’s Pedagogical Council on the use of job funding.

In rural areas where small schools do not have enough pupils to make up six groups, pupils of various ages and school years are taught together in one class out of necessity. The result is a vertical class structure with classes consisting of two, three, or even all six primary school years. The education of these vertical, mixed age classes encourages interactive, mutual learning.

Age levels

Usually, primary school encompasses six school years that are formally divided into three cycles of two years each, but which can also be divided into two cycles of three years or even cycles of subsequent age groups for pedagogical reasons:

  • the first cycle, comprising ages 5 to 8 (also known as the 5-8 cycle, which also includes the more mature pre-schoolers),
  • the second cycle, comprising ages 8 to 10,
  • and the third cycle, comprising ages 10 to 12.

One cycle is considered a basic pedagogical unit. Grouping the work in cycles makes it possible to split the learning process into at least two years and to make pupils more responsive to the various methods of working.

Children are grouped within a cycle according to their needs, and the group is assembled in conjunction with the recommended activities.

Learning processes are differentiated by observing students' individual paces. In this ‘cycle pedagogy’, the teacher usually remains with the same group of students for multiple years (corresponding to the length of the cycle).

The circular letter recommends that teachers of the same cycle cooperate. They have a common responsibility for the children and are to develop a coherent pedagogical project for each cycle.

Class size

The class size depends on the number of classes able to be administered by a primary school. That number depends on the school’s so-called job funding, which is determined based on the number of pupils to primary school teachers and head teacher as follows: up to 15 pupils = 1.25 full-time positions; 16 to 20 = 1.5 positions; 21 to 25 = 2 positions; 26 to 30 = 2.25 positions; the school receives an additional quarter full-time position for every group of five pupils formed beyond this number. A different calculation is used for religious teachers.

Religion or ethics classes

According to the constitutional provision, every pupil in primary school must attend a religion class (Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Jewish or Islamic) or a class in non-denominational ethics. Every class is provided with two hours a week for the religion or moral lesson. The lesson is typically given by a teacher specialised in the subject.

Organisation of the School Year

The government of the German-speaking Community determines the beginning and end of the school year and the dates of the school-free days for every school year. School authorities have 6 school-free half days for administering further education or pedagogical conference days to the teachers. In the German-speaking Community, the school year officially starts on 1 September (technically, it starts on the first work day of September) and ends on 30 June (technically, on the last work day of June) of the next calendar year.


Along with the two-month summer holidays (from 1 July to 31 August), students (and teachers) have two weeks winter holiday (the weeks of Christmas and New Year's Day), two weeks spring holiday (Easter holidays), and two one-week holidays (around 1 November and following Carnival). One school year must comprise between 180 and 184 school days, 182 days on average.


The following days are holidays (thus, also school-free) in the German-speaking Community:

  • Easter Monday,
  • 1st May,
  • Ascension Day,
  • Pentecost Monday,
  • 1st November,
  • 11th November,
  • 15th November (the official holiday of the German-speaking Community).

Organisation of the School Day and Week

The School Week

The school week comprises 5 days. Every week, classes are typically held every Monday to Friday morning and Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon in Belgian schools.

Primary school pupils attend four hours of lessons on Wednesdays and six hours of lessons on each of the other days, which makes for a weekly total of 28 lessons of 50 minutes (for a total of 1400 minutes per week). Pupils receive 280 minutes of lessons on average every day.

The School day

With the help of the Pedagogical Council and after consulting with the parent association, the head teacher determines when classes begin and end, though it must be between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

In most cases, classes run from 8:20 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a break in the morning and the afternoon. The lunch period must be at least 60 minutes long.

In urban areas, most pupils remain under the supervision of one or more teaching staff or non-teaching staff in the school during the lunch break and may have a warm meal at the school canteen.

This is less often the case at basic education schools in the villages or small towns. Because some busses that provide school transportation have early arrival times and late departure times, some schools – especially secondary schools – last 8 hours a day for four days of the week.

Pupils supervising outside lessons

Pupils and students who arrive very early to school are supervised. Supervised homework is not provided after school hours. However, private after-school tutoring until 6 p.m. has been arranged in some places in the last few years.