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2021-01-07 00:01:35

Education in Belgium: primary, secondary and higher education for foreign students

Education in Belgium: primary, secondary and higher education for foreign students

Belgium is distinguished by a wide variety of styles, as well as rules that differ in the Dutch, French, German-speaking communities. Most Belgian children attend free public or subsidized religious schools, but there is also private education, including international schools.

The compulsory school age throughout Belgium is between 6 and 18 years old. Compulsory education is divided into primary (6-12 years old) and secondary (12-18 years old). For children under the compulsory school age, there are free preschool institutions from 2.5 years. and older.

There are 4 main types of institutions operating in each region:

  • Public schools - gemeenschapsonderwijs or, réseau de la Communauté française
  • Subsidized public schools - officieel gesubsidieerd onderwijs, réseau officiel subventionné
  • Subsidized private schools - vrij gesubsidieerd onderwijs, réseau libre subventionné
  • Paid private schools, including international and Montessori schools.

School enrollment

All children who come to Belgium to study must register within the first 60 days after arrival at the municipality.

Registration documents:

  • Identification
  • Residence visa
  • Vaccination confirmation
  • Documents from the previous school.

Children who do not have official residency documents have the legal right to register at the school.

Schools do not have a fixed service area, so you can choose any location.

There are different systems of admission to educational institutions with Dutch / French language of instruction - depending on which academic year your visit falls. Also, international, private educational institutions operate on the territory of the country.

Education standards in Belgium are high. Belgium is among the top 10 countries in Europe with high levels of achievement in science, mathematics and reading. Investment in education is among the highest among the 40 OECD countries.

Preschool education in Belgium

Preschool education is optional but can be very beneficial for a number of reasons. Government funding means that kindergartens and preschools provide free childcare services to working parents. There are few formal lessons, but the classes actively prepare children for school at an educational and social level in a playful format. In the country, more than 90% of children attend preschool institutions, nurseries for babies and toddlers up to 2.5 years old, and kindergartens operate. Often the kindergarten is linked to the local primary school, which facilitates the transition to formal education.

Primary education in Belgium

Primary education is compulsory for children between 6 and 12 years old, and local education departments monitor the requirements and curriculum of each region. Upon completion of primary education, children will receive a certificate of primary education - Certificat d'Etudes de Base (CEB) or Getuigschrift van Lager Onderwijs.

Public primary schools in Belgium

Public primary education is free for all children throughout the country. Possible costs include selected study materials, excursions.

The curriculum is quite traditional: students study reading, writing, mathematics, music, history. Classes are held in the morning and afternoon.

A great deal of attention is paid to the study of a foreign language: learning Dutch or German for the French-speaking community and French for the Dutch-speaking community is gradually becoming mandatory.

Private primary schools in Belgium

Belgium has a large number of private, international schools, as well as educational institutions with an alternative approach to teaching:

  • Montessori schools
  • International schools
  • Religious schools (Catholic, Jewish, Muslim).

Secondary education in Belgium

Secondary education in Belgium is compulsory for children from 12 to 18 years old, but after 16 years, students can choose to study part-time, undergo vocational or technical training.

Public high schools in Belgium

Public schools are free for all students (textbook fees are possible).

The curriculum is extensive, as students move to high school, they themselves choose subjects for study. The specialization focuses on one of four areas:

  1. General - prepares students for higher education, pays special attention to learning theory, general knowledge.
  2. Technical - more focused on practice, preparing students for a profession or further education.
  3. Professional - provides direct access to the profession at the end of the course, practice-oriented.
  4. The fine arts prepares for the continuation of the study of art: students can continue their education in a specialized institution (art college or university).

Private secondary schools in Belgium

Private schools offer a variety of learning styles, and international schools provide the opportunity to obtain globally recognized qualifications.

  • International schools offer education based on the English, American, Scandinavian, European systems. The curriculum, teaching style, qualifications differ depending on the system that the school follows - for example, in UK schools, high school students take GCSE and A-Level exams. There are schools offering an International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
  • Subsidized private schools, including religious schools, are particularly well represented in Flanders.
  • Montessori schools.
  • The Steiner Schools use a humanistic approach to education that combines intellectual, practical, artistic development.
  • Other private schools offer a range of alternative teaching methods: Sudbury School in Ghent offers an American model in which children are responsible for their own education, while the French-speaking Le Labo specializes in sports education.

Certificate of secondary education in Belgium

The approach of the Belgian school system to grades is strict, tests are carried out throughout the entire period of study. The Secundair Onderwijs diploma (in Dutch) or the Certificat d'Enseignement secondaire Supérieur général and others are awarded at the end of secondary education. These certificates provide access to higher education.

When choosing a professional education, it is necessary to continue training for another year to obtain a certificate.

International or alternative schools offer a variety of graduate degrees, including A-level and IB.

Homeschooling in Belgium

Homeschooling in Belgium is constitutionally allowed, but curricula must meet certain requirements depending on the community you live in + students must be certified annually.

The number of children studying at home or with private tutors in Belgium is growing. In Flanders, the number of homeschoolers in secondary schooling increased from 100 to over 1,000 between 2000 and 2014, according to a study by Agodi.

However, there are strict rules, failure to comply with which means that parents may face sanctions. If you decide to teach your child at home, you must notify the Department of Education and sign a document guaranteeing compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Belgium's higher education system

Belgium's higher education system is part of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), created under the Bologna Process, and is part of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

There are three types of higher education institutions in Belgium: universities, university colleges and art colleges, which award bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. A bachelor's degree can be obtained in 3 years (180 ECTS credits), and a master's degree in 1-2 years (60 or 120 ECTS credits). After completing a master's degree, students can choose to pursue a doctoral degree (PhD), which is awarded only by universities in Belgium.

Students wishing to study medicine, dentistry, art or engineering may face stricter admission rules and exams than other fields of study.

Tuition fees at universities in Belgium

Belgium is divided into three regions:

  • Flanders
  • Brussels
  • Wallonia.

At universities in Wallonia, students from non-EU / EEA countries must pay tuition fees; the amount of payment is set by ARES (Academy of Research and Higher Education).

In the Flemish region, citizens of countries outside the EU / EEA must also pay from 900 euros per academic year.

Estimated cost of studying in Belgium:

  • Catholic University of Leuven - from 835 € to 9,000 € / year.
  • University of Namur - from 835 € to 4,175 € / year.
  • University of Brussels (VUB) - from 835 € to 4,500 € / year.
  • University of Liege - from 835 € / year

Scholarships in Belgium

Scholarships for international students are offered by some universities, the government, the Academy of Research and Higher Education, and other Belgian agencies or organizations.

Examples of Scholarships for International Students in Belgium:

  • Master Mind Scholarships - Provided by the Government of Flanders
  • ARES Scholarships - For Students From Developing Countries
  • Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's Programs (EMJMD) - for all international students regardless of their country of origin. The EMJMD scholarship covers expenses such as tuition fees, insurance, some travel expenses. Students also receive a monthly allowance for the entire duration of their studies.
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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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