General principles

Compulsory education starts on 1 September of the year in which a child reaches the age of 6 and lasts in principle to 18 years.

  • A school career in Flanders could start between the age of 2.5 and 3 years, the age a young child can start mainstream nursery education.
  • Mainstream primary education is aimed at children at the age of compulsory education (6 to 12) and comprises six consecutive years of study.
  • Secondary education is aimed at young people aged 12 to 18.
  • After secondary education, a variety of higher education courses are provided.
  • In nursery, primary as well as in secondary education there are schools for special education, aimed at children who need help temporarily or permanently, due to physical or mental disability, serious behavioural or emotional problems, or serious learning difficulties.

A school day starts between 8 AM and 9AM and ends between 3 PM and 5 PM. At noon there is a lunch break of minimum 60 minutes. Students go to school from Monday till Friday, with one half day off, in most schools on Wednesday afternoon. A school week contains minimum 28 hours and maximum 36 hours a week.

In the educational landscape of Flanders, there are three educational networks:

  1. community education, under the authority of the Flemish Community;
  2. subsidized publicly run schools, under the authority of the municipalities and provincial administrations; and
  3. subsidized privately run schools, under the authority of private organizations. In this group, catholic schools are overrepresented. Also e.g. Jewish and ‘method schools’ are part of this educational network.

The great majority of Flemish pupils attend subsidized privately run education.   

Quality control and quality promotion in Flanders are based on three key pillars: attainment targets, the inspectorate and educational guidance.

  1. Attainment targets are the minimum goals which the government considers necessary and achievable for a particular group of pupils. This concerns knowledge, insight, attitudes and skills. Every governing body or school board must include the attainment targets in the curriculum. --> Autonomy of schools as well as freedom of school choice are basic characteristics of the Flemish education system. The government formulates attainment targets and the schools are responsible for reaching these targets with their students. How they attain these targets is the school’s choice.
  2. The educational inspectorate of the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training acts as a professional body of external supervision by assessing the implementation of these attainment targets and developmental objectives.
  3. The educational guidance service is specific to each educational network and ensures professional internal support to schools and centers. Schools can call on them for educational and methodological advisory services (innovation projects, self-evaluation projects, support initiatives).

The Flemish ministry organizes support for schools and for students.

  1. The first important support organ are the Pupil Guidance Centres (CLB). Pupils, parents, teachers and school management teams can call on the CLB for information, help and guidance. CLB guidance is free of charge and can inform on learning and studying, the school career, preventive health care and social and emotional development.
  2. Since 1996 Flanders pursues a policy to stimulate Information and Communication Technology in education. A large information and sensitization campaign was conducted, continuing education courses were organized, subsidizing infrastructure, … all initiatives to integrate ICT in schools and education contexts.
  3. Communication is the third pillar. Through communication a strong involvement of teachers, managements of schools, parents en pupils can be accomplished. Moreover it is important to also attract those target groups that are theoretically more difficult to reach: individuals who do not have access to the Internet, people with low reading abilities, people with limited command of the language, …