Secondary education

As the PISA study only assesses 15-year-olds, we will focus here on the secondary education system in Flanders. 84% of the young Flemish community (25- to 34-years-olds) obtained a certificate of secondary education.

Since 1989, full-time secondary education has been organized in a uniform system in Flanders, that comprises three (or four) stages of two years each, education forms and types of education and courses of study.

  • Pupils only make a final choice of subjects in the second stage, so they are first introduced to as many subjects as possible. Therefore, we speak about a ‘rather comprehensive’ system in the first two grades. The majority of teaching in the that stage is devoted to the core curriculum (Dutch, French, mathematics, history, geography, arts, science, technology, gym, religion or philosophy). 
  • From the third grade on, we distinguish four different education forms. That is why the education system in Flanders is categorized as highly tracked and it causes large differences between schools as well.
  1. ASO (general secondary education) with an emphasis on broad general education and provides a very firm foundation for passing on to higher (tertiary) education.
  2. TSO (technical secondary education) emphasis on general and technical/theoretical matter. The education, with practical classes, prepares on a profession or on a pass to higher education.
  3. KSO (secondary arts education) combines a broad general education with active arts practice. After KSO, young people can exercise a profession or go on to higher education.
  4. BSO (vocational secondary education) is a practice-oriented type of education in which young people learn a specific occupation in addition to receiving general education. From the age of 15 or 16, pupils within this form of education can transfer to part-time education (DBSO). Part-time education combines learning and working, with at least 28 hours a week devoted to learning.
  • BuSO (special secondary education) provides an educational program tailored to the needs of the pupil (with a mental, physical, psychological, … disability). In secondary education, almost 4% of pupils attend special schools. The years in BuSO are rather different with the years in the other forms of education: the pupil only passes on to the next ‘learning stage’ when he is ready for this. In special secondary education, types of education are organized in accordance with the type of disability and the capacities of the pupil.



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