Schools and Education

If parents are already aware that their child is neurodivergent, they may have picked a school that they feel would suit their child best. An early assessment and accommodations agreed upon by the school and other organisations, can lead to better academic, social, cognitive, and psychological functioning in school, and in all areas of life.  Neurodivergent people who remain undiagnosed and untreated often have problems, for example, my own daughter started to have issues keeping up with her schoolwork, which is how we started our journey of discovery. Being undiagnosed can lead to anxiety (because the pupil sees they cannot do everything the school expects) and even more serious mental health problems.  It’s very important to discover what they are GOOD at, what they enjoy doing, and to try and do that as much as possible.  

Some of our members choose to homeschool, others choose International schools and others use the Belgian school system. The education system in Belgium is very complicated and we will only offer a brief outline here. This is a good source of additional information (French).

Education System in Belgium

The Education System in Belgium is run by the Flemish Government (Dutch Speaking), the Government of the French Community or the Government of the German-speaking Community. There are 3 Types of School:

  • Subsidized private schoolsvrij gesubsidieerd onderwijs; réseau libre subventionné, including schools with a religious affiliation (the vast majority are Catholic schools / this includes “method schools” using e.g. the Steiner, Freinet or Montessori education method in the Flemish education system).
  • Community schoolsgemeenschapsonderwijs or GO! (in Dutch); réseau de la Communauté française (in French). State education that is neutral in terms of religion. Article 24 of the Belgian Constitution furthermore guarantees free education, the right of parents to choose their school and the (philosophical, ideological and religious) neutrality of government-provided schools. These state schools have to provide the choice between the teaching of one of the recognized religions and non-denominational moral teaching.
  • Subsidized public schoolsofficieel gesubsidieerd onderwijs; réseau officiel subventionné, organized by municipalities.

Language learning is a core part of Belgian public education, and funding is provided to help children who do not speak the main teaching language. Support varies from school to school, so it’s a good idea to ask what support they offer for learning the language: General Flemish (Dutch language) Education. In 2012, the Government of the French Community issued a new decree to optimise the reception, integration and schooling of newly arrived pupils that are between two and a half and eighteen years old.

In order to facilitate the integration of migrant children, the French Community has established partnership agreements with Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and China. These bilateral cultural agreements allow volunteering schools to benefit from the presence of one or more teachers coming from these countries.

There are a significant number of Private International schools (which are fee-paying) and there are European Schools for the staff of the European Commission and Parliament.

 

 

 

 

Pre-school (2 years 6 months to 5 ? 6 ? years) – (Dutch: kleuterschool; French: enseignement maternel; German: Kindergarten)

This is free and most children attend, although education is not compulsory until the calendar year in which a child becomes 5 years old.  

  • Compulsory education lasts for a maximum of twelve entire school years.
  • Everything is taught through play and there is no formal curriculum.
  • Most pre-schools are attached to a particular primary school. Pre-schools and primary schools often share buildings and other facilities. Some schools offer special pre-primary education for children with disabilities or other special needs.

If you opt for a local school, children will need to have attended a certain number of half-days in a Dutch or French-language pre-school before they can enroll in primary school. Without this, children must undergo a basic language test to assess their proficiency.

Basic or Primary School (years 1 to 6) – (Dutch: basisonderwijs; French: enseignement fondamental)

  • Compulsory education starts the calendar year in which the child becomes 5 years old and lasts for a maximum of twelve whole school years.
  •  Primary schooling is free and most children start these classes in the year in which they turn 6. The teaching language is the official language of the area where the school is located (Brussels has both French language and Dutch language schools).
  • Primary education is divided into three cycles (Dutch: graden; French: degrés): First cycle (year 1 and 2) / Second cycle (year 3 and 4) / Third cycle (year 5 and 6). There is usually no school on Wednesday afternoons.
  • In many Flemish schools French is taught from the Third cycle (some Brussels schools start in the Second, or even the First cycle).  
  • In French language schools, they usually teach Dutch or English.
  • In German language schools, they teach French.
  • Children receive assessments at every level, from pre-primary to secondary schooling, to determine whether they are ready to move forward.
  • As a part of this testing it is common for children to repeat a year.

On completing their primary education, children will graduate with a certificate of primary education, known as Certificat d’Etudes de Base (CEB) or Getuigschrift van Lager Onderwijs. This certificate is important when moving to secondary education.

Special Education (Flemish education is used as the example)

Special needs schools and their support networks work with different types (type 1 (slight intellectual disability) and 8 (severe learning disorders) no longer exist):

  • Type 2: intellectual disabilities
  • Type 3: emotional or behavioural disorders, without intellectual disability
  • Type 4: physical or motor disorders
  • Type 5: hospital school or residential setting
  • Type 6: (legally) blind or visually impaired
  • Type 7: (legally) deaf or hearing loss / speech-language disorders
  • Type 9: autism spectrum disorder, without intellectual disability

And to make it extra complicated, they will work with extra types in secondary special schools:

  • OV1: social adaptation and living in a protected environment
  • OV2: social adaptation leading to living and working in a protected environment (‘beschutte werkplaats’)
  • OV3: vocational education leading to working in a small specific domain (e.g.: catering, gardening, woodwork…) and living in an ordinary environment
  • OV4: general, vocational, art and technical education for kids that are preparing to join the workforce or go to college.

There’s a type of secondary schooling that is not ASO (academic – requires you to have completed the general curriculum in primary school), called BSO (beroeps = vocational) for the children who got a B on their leaving certificate in primary school but don’t need the full extra support of (or whose parents don’t want) a special school.
Information in Dutch about the public special schools.

The French Community run their education system in a very similar way.

Senior Schools (years 7 to 12 – also called Senior 1 to 6)

  • Secondary education consists of three cycles (Dutch: graden; French: degrés; German: Grad): First cycle (year 1 and 2) /  Second cycle (year 3 and 4) / Third cycle (year 5 and 6).
  • Some core lessons are compulsory throughout secondary school (like the first language and sport, etc). 
  • The First cycle provides a broad general basis, with only a few options to choose from (such as Latin, additional mathematics and technology). The second and third cycles offer more choice, but most subjects are still compulsory.
  • After age 16 students can opt to study part-time and undertake vocational or technical training.

Belgian Secondary School is divided into four general types

  • General Secondary Education (Dutch: Algemeen Secundair Onderwijs; ASO; French: Enseignement Secondaire général). A very broad, general education, preparing for higher education. Once students have completed all six years, it is expected that they will continue studying (e.g.: university or college).
  • Technical Secondary Education (Dutch: Technisch Secundair Onderwijs; TSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire technique. The TSO is divided into two groups of education again: TTK and STK. The TTK courses focus more on technical aspects, & STK courses focus more on practical matters.
  • Vocational Secondary Education (Dutch: Beroepssecundair Onderwijs; BSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire professionnel). Very practical and very job-specific education. Afterward, several directions offer 7th, sometimes 8th, specialization years. Possible directions include carpentry, car mechanics, jewelry, or masonry. BSO is the only type of secondary education that does not qualify students to pursue higher education. If the student chooses to follow the optional 7th (and sometimes 8th) year, they will receive a diploma of the same level as a TSO diploma, which does allow them to pursue higher education.
  • Art Secondary Education (Dutch: Kunstsecundair onderwijs; KSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire artistique): These schools link general and broad secondary education development with active art practice, ranging from performance arts to visual arts.

Testing is carried out throughout secondary education and is fairly rigorous. The Diploma van Secundair Onderwijs (in Dutch) or Certificat d’Enseignement secondaire supérieur général, technique ou artistique (CESS) (in French) is awarded on completion of secondary education. These certificates provide access to higher education.

CLB / PMS

The CLB follows children from age 2,5 to 18. They perform the necessary medical examinations at certain points in a child’s life, and they follow the child after the Kind & Gezin services. 

Which CLB you use depends on which school you choose – each Flemish school has a CLB attached. The school or the parents can ask the CLB for help in finding what would be best for the child if they feel like the child is struggling (health, home, mental, school skills…)

Basically, schools need to prove to the CLB that they’re trying to help all the children by having a basic system in place (fase 0) and that they’ve already been helping that child specifically (fase 1). CLB starts at fase 2 when there is need for external support (at home service, special school, speech therapy, physiotherapy…) and they will try to get a full picture of the child, their class, their home. At first, they’ll try to work together with the school and the parents, to find if there’s some leeway for some changes.

When that doesn’t work, they’ll mostly start-up a diagnostic tract and/or will advise external support and/or will ask for support from a support network. The support network’s job is to find ways to make the school more inclusive toward the child so the pupil will feel better. They need a ‘gemotiveerd verslag’ (motivated report) before they can intervene. 

If a gemotiveerd verslag is not enough, the CLB will make up a report, which will allow the pupil to transfer to a special school or allow the school to waive the general curriculum for the child, creating one based on their individual needs instead. 

This can never be done without permission from the parents. A report is ‘fase 3’ of the care continuum. To get a report, you also need a diagnosis. 
For further information about the CLB 
Information about the CLB is available in various languages 

For information about the Centre of Guidance which work with French language schools and more information about the PMS.

Homeschooling

  • Homeschooling is also legal since “learning” is mandatory in Belgium as opposed to attending school.
  • Homeschooling has to be registered with the Flemish Government or the Government of the French Community. Exams are taken and so there is information which must be covered.
  • Homeschooling is very rare, but the numbers are rising slowly. For the year 2007—2008 the number of home-schooled children in Flanders rose to 279 in basic education and 504 in secondary education, out of a total of 1.3 million.
  • Flemish info.
  • InterHigh offers pupils as young as 8 years of age the chance to go to school online.
  • Pearson Online Academy is an accredited, online private school for students in grades K-12.
  • Homeschoolers Home Educators for English Speakers in Belgium

List of all international schools in Belgium here

Frequently Asked Questions

We are thinking of homeschooling – is there anyone we can connect with who already homeschools?

  • There is a Facebook group a great place to ask questions. 
  • If you choose to homeschool you must register with the Flemish Ministry for Education and Training or the French community, and there will be exams in the language you have chosen. 
  • If you are following the education system of your own country you will need to prove this and show the standards achieved.

From what age is education compulsory in Belgium?

Flemish system – They can start lagere school on the 1st of September in the year they celebrate their 6th birthday. There are some requirements though – find out more here.

What is the M-Decree? And what is the Learning Support Decree and the Learning Support Model?

The Flemish Government will replace the M-decree for pupils with special educational needs with the learning support decree. The current support model will remain in effect until June 2022. 

From 1st September 2022, the Flemish Government aspires to focus on strengthening mainstream education, learning support and special education in the following ways: – 

  • Strong basic care and increased care in mainstream education.
  • sustainable learning support model with suitable employment conditions for support staff.
  • A fully-fledged place and a strengthening of the quality for special education.

The learning support decree and the learning support model will be phased in from September 1, 2022. 

Who is the Educadomo company?

The Educadomo company, which offers a homeschooling service throughout Belgium at all levels of education, specifies on its website that its tutors (educational coaches) are all students in higher education establishments who specialize in a specific academic field.

Is there an International school which caters for more practical education?

The British School of Brussels Secondary School offers BTEC courses.

The two-year BTEC course is an excellent choice for students who prefer continuous assessment to traditional exams. The courses tend to be practical in orientation, providing an excellent bridge to both further study at university and the world of work.

BTECs at every level
Hospitality and Sport can both be taken as a certificate, equivalent to half an A-Level, or as a Subsidiary Diploma, equivalent to a full A-Level.
BTEC Business can be taken at certificate or subsidiary diploma level or additionally as a Diploma. Finally, BSB offers the Pearson BTEC International Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business & Hospitality and Business & Sport.

 

Experts

Bhu Venkatesan (OT)
Bhu is an Occupational Therapist and runs Flowerpots private pre-Primary school
Website
Email

Giuliana Wheater
Rainbow Kids Touch Therapy
Website 

Jo Morton-Brown
Flourish on You Tube – mental health for teens
Website

Katherine Jennick
‘What’s Your Strength?’ Careers cards
Website

Aiste Grubliauskiene
Parenting with positive discipline
Aiste Grubliauskiene is a psychologist
Website

Jeanine Crombé
EFT (Tapping) Professional
Website

Julie Anne Gilliland
Website

Care Comfort 
We present a range of sensory stimulation products based on the theory of sensory integration (Jane Ayers)
Website

BodyTalk – Patty Truong
In BodyTalk, we have developed a whole-healthcare system that supports and promotes the well-being of any person
Website
Email

Art Therapy – Angela Haren
Website
Email

Vision Therapy – Benoit Lombaerts MSc
Optometrist
Website

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