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Education system in Belgium

If you’re planning to move to Belgium for studying or plan to have kids and send them to school, you need to learn about the educational system in Belgium. It’s essential to get to know what you or your kids are about to experience due to inevitable and even surprising changes for future students.

Notable facts about the system

With Belgium being a trilingual country, you’d think its education system is complicated to maintain and follow. In reality, it’s a lot easier than you think. 

First of all, we have to look into what the trilingualism of Belgium looks like in practice. There exist three different language regions in Belgium: 

  • French-speaking, 
  • Dutch-speaking, 
  • German-speaking.

Every region has different rules and policies regarding its educational system. 

Compulsory school in Belgium usually is between six and eighteen, being divided into primary (ages 6-12) and secondary school (ages 12-18), however before the compulsory education, children can also go to the unpaid preschool facilities for 2.5 years.

All children living in Belgium must enrol within the first 60 days of registration into the municipality. To enrol into a school of any level, one must have a very particular set of documents.

Those include:

  • proof of identity
  • proof of address
  • proof of vaccinations
  • previous academic records
  • if applicable, a residence visa for Belgium

Primary school

Primary education, called lager onderwijs in Dutch and enseignement primaire in French, is required amongst children ages six to twelve.

After each year, children receive assessments to determine if they’re ready to move to the next level. This form of testing is standard in Belgium. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for children to repeat a year. Fortunately, it has no negative stigma in Belgium.

After completing education children receive a graduation certificate, called Certificat d’Etudes de Base (CEB) or Getuigschrift van Lager Onderwijs. It is an essential document when enrolling on secondary school.

Belgian education puts a lot of weight into learning a foreign language and becoming fluent in it. For French-speaking schools, German and Dutch is mandatory etc.

Secondary school

Secondary school lasts from ages twelve to eighteen, but students at sixteen can decide to study only part-time and undergo technical or vocational training. 

The secondary school offer more flexibility for students, who can pick some of their subjects themselves and choose from vocational, technical, general and art education.