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The Belgium Education System

The three Belgian Communities- French, Flemish and German speaking community are responsible for education in Belgium. Children at the age of two and a half go for Pre-schools or nursery schools in Belgium. Primary education in Belgium lasts for 6 years, followed by another 6-year cycle of secondary education. Primary & secondary education in Belgium is free. 

Education Profile of Belgium

Pre-School Education (In Dutch: kleuteronderwijs; French: enseignement maternel; German: Kindergarten)

Children at the age of 2 years 6 months start for pre-schools in Belgium. There are no formal classes or assessment in Belgian pre-schools, and they build up the children’s communicative, intellectual and creative skills, all done in a playful manner. 

Compulsory Education

Education in Belgium is mandatory between the ages 6 and 18 years.

Primary Education 

In Belgium, the Primary Education is free and is imparted by three different types of schools-

Community schools (Onderwijs van de Vlaamse gemeenschap; reseau de la Communaute francaise): These schools are owned and maintained by communities.

Subsidized public schools (officieel gesubsidieerd onderwijs;reseau officiel subventionne): These schools are owned and maintained by provinces and municipalities.

Subsidized free schools (vrij gesubsidieerd onderwijs; reseau libre subventionne): These schools are owned and maintained by an organization affiliated to the Catholic Church.  

The Primary Education's duration in Belgium lasts is 6 years. Children may attend primary schools at the age of 6 years and until 12 years of age. Primary education is split into 3 cycles (Dutch: graden; French: degres):
  • First cycle: Consists of year 1 and 2
  • Second cycle: Consists of year 3 and 4
  • Third cycle: Consists of year 5 and 6
Curriculum: Basic mathematics, writing, reading, a few topics of history, biology, religion, music, etc., language lessons in French, Dutch or English are also taught at some schools.
The curriculum is same at all the schools.

Secondary Education

Secondary Education in Belgium unfolds through 3 stages and lasts for 6 years. 
  • First cycle: Consists of year 1 and 2
  • Second cycle: Consists of year 3 and 4
  • Third cycle: Consists of year 5 and 6
The first cycle lays down the foundation by providing general education, while the second and third cycles increase in specificity. Overlaid across these are four different types of schools-

General Secondary Schools (Dutch: Algemeen Secundair Onderwijs; ASO; French: Enseignement Secondaire general)

These schools provide general education and prepare students for higher education. 

Courses Offered: Ancient Greek and Latin, Mathematics, Modern Languages (main focus on French and Dutch, German, English, German, and sometimes Spanish-Optional), Economy, Sciences which includes Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography, and Human Sciences which includes Psychology and Sociology.

Technical Secondary Schools (Dutch: Technisch Secundair Onderwijs; TSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire technique)

These schools provide technical education as well as practical courses. The technical secondary education is split up into 2 education groups-
  • TTK: The TTK courses emphasise on technical education. 
  • STK: The STK courses focus on practical approach. 
Both the education groups provide general education in history, mathematics, science, language, and geography. After successful completion of the secondary education, students can either go for the job or continue their studies. If students wish to continue their studies, they can opt for a seventh specialisation year, bachelor studies or master studies. Generally, students who have taken STK courses go for continue studies. Courses are- Office management, Health, practical ICT, Teaching, Tourism, Trade, Communication, Practical Engineering, etc.

Vocational Secondary Education Schools (Dutch: Beroepssecundair Onderwijs; BSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire professionnel)

The vocational secondary education school in Belgium provide a job specific education and provide 7th and sometimes 8th specialization years after completion of year 6 in third cycle, although these years are optional. Pupils who opt for the 7th or 8th years get a diploma equivalent to technical secondary education, thereby, permitting them to go for higher education. Possible careers options include- Jewellery, Carpentry, Masonry, Car mechanics, etc.  

Art Secondary Education Institutions (Dutch: Kunstsecundair onderwijs; KSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire artistique)

These schools provide general as well as broad secondary education that mainly focuses on artistic discipline. Most of the subjects are theoretical and prepare pupils for higher education. Courses consist of dancing (Ballet school), acting, and a few graphical and musical arts. Students who graduate from this school can go to acting schools, higher ballet, music conservatories, or art colleges to further advance their art.

Students with disabilities also get Special Secondary Education (Dutch: Buitengewoon Secundair Onderwijs; BuSO; French: Enseignement Secondaire special).

Higher or Tertiary Education

The Higher Education System in Belgium follows to the Bologna process and offers three year Bachelor’s degree and one to two years Master Degree. Both Universities and Colleges in Belgium award these degrees. After completion of the Master’s degree, students can take up research projects leading to a doctorate degree. PhD's are only awarded by Universities in Belgium.
Students who possess a qualifying secondary school diploma can apply to the higher education institutions in Belgium. Entrance examinations are required by some professional courses such as, department of architecture, civil engineering, medicine and dentistry, nautical sciences and fine arts. 

Belgium Credentials

Primary Education

At the end of Primary Education, Certificate of Primary Education (Certificat d'Etudes de Base) is awarded.

Secondary Education

Following credentials are awarded after the completion of Secondary Education-

General Secondary Education- Certificate of Lower Secondary Education (Certificat d'Enseignement Secondaire Inferieur)

Certificate of Higher Secondary Education (Getuigschrift van Hoger Secundair Onderwijs)

Technical Secondary Education-  Higher Secondary Technical Education (Diplome d'Enseignement Technique Secondaire Superieur)

Vocational Secondary Education- Diploma of Secondary Education (Diploma van Secundair Onderwijs)

Higher or Tertiary Education

Following credentials are awarded after the completion of Tertiary Education-
Graduate (Gradue)
Licentiate (Licence)
Doctorate (Doctorat)
Special Doctorate (Doctorat Speciale)
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