The school system in Belgium has a compulsory school age from 6 to 18 years old. From the age of 15, sometimes a part time school timetable is allowed in certain circumstances.
In Belgium there are three different Ministries of Education in each of the three regions, these are: The Department for Education in the German speaking community (for German speakers), The Department for Education in the Dutch speaking community (In Brussels and Flanders), The Department for Education in the French speaking community (In Brussels and Wall
When enrolling in to a school in Belgium, there are two options for a foreigner. You can either attend or send your child to an International school in Belgium or another school following the Belgium curriculum. Home schooling is allowed, but has recently became stricter to ensure that the child is receiving a suitable education. If you do plan to home educate your child, then it is important to have a decent understanding of what you plan to teach.
There are three types of educational institutes in each state. There are free private schools, which are usually Catholic schools or sometimes Jewish, Protestant, Islamic or Orthodox. There are publicly run schools which often require certain fees to attend. Then there are the Community schools that don’t follow a particular religion or any type of belief and are very unbiased schools.
Nursery schools are available for children to attend from the age of two and a half. Free pre-schooling is available for children from the ages of two and a half until they begin school at the age of six. In certain circumstances where there are limited spaces available in a nursery, mother working full-time will be give priority for their children to attend. Pre-school is the most popular and cheapest option for working parents who need child care, as pre-school is favoured over other types of child care. It is not compulsory for parents to send their children to pre-school or to have any other kind of child care and there are still many parents who don’t send their children to pre-school however, it is very popular with working parents. Nursery school or pre-school gives children the oppurtunity to prepare themselves for full-time schooling. They are accepted to complete numerous supervised tasks, and learn subjects such as music, art, a second language and sports through means of play.
Primary education is seperated in to three cycles, these are: First cycle – years 1 and 2, Second cycle – years 3 and 4, Third cycle – years 5 and 6. The new term starts on September 1st and children that have turned 6 that year will attend school for the first time. It has been known that children have started school at the age of 5, but only if they are ready to start school. During the six years when a child attends primary school, they will get the chance to start learning a second language. Depending on which region you are in, your second language will be one of the other two languages that are spoken in Belgium. A child will attend primary school between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, and will be set regular homework throughout this time.
As a child enters secondary school, they will begin their next three cycles in their school life: First cycle – years 7 and 8, Second cycle – 9 and 10, Third cycle – 11 and 12. Secondary school also last for six years, the child will begin secondary school at the age of 12 and finish when they are 18, which is the compulsory school leaving age. After the first year of secondary school, pupils are given a list of options on which subjects they wish to study. Year 7, the first year of secondary school, has a set timetable and all pupils will study the same subjects. From year 8, the pupils are given options on the lessons they would like to take, these are determined by the ability of the student or they can choose. The subjects that a student can take from the second year of secondary school depend on the career they wish to follow after leaving school. Often, the school that they attend at secondary level reflects on the students career path after finsishing full-time education. Students take numerous test and assessments throughout secondary school year and awarded a Diploma upon finishing their education at the age of 18.
At the end of each school year from year one to year twelve, all students are assessed to determine whether they are ready to continue in to their next year of school. The decision whether the student will need to repeat a year depends on the final result of their tests. This is more common that expected and although foreign students may not be familiar with this concept, it is considered normal within the education system in Belgium. Higher Education
After leaving school at 18, students have the option to continue their education or start full-time work. For students who want to continue their education, they have the option to attend university, college and take other specialised courses and degrees.