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Expat Exchange - Educational System in Belgium
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Brussels, Belgium


Educational System in Belgium

By Joshua Wood, LPC

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: The one tip that you hear expats living in Belgium repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to Belgium. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that Belgium is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in Belgium.

Belgium, a multilingual country with a high standard of living, offers a diverse and high-quality educational system. The system is divided into different stages, each catering to a specific age group and focusing on various aspects of a child's development. This guide aims to provide expats with a comprehensive understanding of the Belgian educational system, including the main stages of education, enrollment procedures, language requirements, public and private schooling options, and alternatives such as homeschooling and online schooling.

What are the main stages of education in Belgium?

The Belgian educational system is divided into four main stages: pre-primary education (école maternelle/kleuterschool), primary education (école primaire/lagere school), secondary education (école secondaire/middelbare school), and higher education (enseignement supérieur/hoger onderwijs). Each stage is designed to cater to the developmental needs of children at different ages, focusing on various academic, social, and personal skills.

Pre-Primary Education

Pre-primary education in Belgium, also known as école maternelle in French or kleuterschool in Dutch, is for children aged 2.5 to 6 years. This stage focuses on the child's overall development, including social skills, basic motor skills, and cognitive abilities. Attendance is not compulsory, but it is highly encouraged as it prepares children for primary education.

Primary Education

Primary education, or école primaire/lagere school, is for children aged 6 to 12 years. This stage focuses on basic literacy, numeracy, and general knowledge. It also introduces children to the three official languages of Belgium: Dutch, French, and German. Attendance is compulsory.

Secondary Education

Secondary education, or école secondaire/middelbare school, is for students aged 12 to 18 years. This stage is divided into general, technical, vocational, and art secondary education. It prepares students for higher education or the job market. Attendance is compulsory until the age of 18.

Higher Education

Higher education, or enseignement supérieur/hoger onderwijs, includes universities and colleges. It offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in various fields. Admission is based on the successful completion of secondary education.

How does a newcomer from a different country enroll their kids in school?

To enroll a child in a Belgian school, parents or guardians must provide proof of residence in Belgium, the child's identity card or passport, and previous school reports. The enrollment process typically starts in the spring for the following academic year. It's advisable to contact the school directly for specific enrollment procedures and requirements.

Can children still learning the local language enroll in a public school?

Yes, children who are still learning Dutch, French, or German can enroll in public schools in Belgium. Many schools offer language support programs to help non-native speakers. However, the primary language of instruction will be the language of the region where the school is located.

Are there public bilingual schools?

While most public schools in Belgium teach in one of the country's official languages (Dutch, French, or German), there are some public schools, particularly in Brussels, that offer bilingual programs. Admission to these schools is typically based on language proficiency and availability of places.

What types of private schools are common in Belgium?

Private schools in Belgium include Catholic schools, international schools, and bilingual schools. Catholic schools follow the same curriculum as public schools but include religious education. International schools follow international curriculums like the International Baccalaureate. Bilingual schools offer instruction in two languages.

Do expats typically send their children to public or private school?

Many expats in Belgium choose to send their children to international or bilingual private schools due to the language of instruction and the international curriculum. However, some expats prefer public schools for their children to integrate more into the local culture and language.

How expensive are Private schools in Belgium?

Private school fees in Belgium can vary widely, ranging from a few thousand euros to over 20,000 euros per year. The cost depends on the type of school, the curriculum, and the services provided.

Are you allowed to homeschool while living in Belgium?

Yes, homeschooling is legal in Belgium. However, it is subject to certain regulations. Homeschooled children must still meet the same educational standards as those in traditional schools, and they must pass periodic examinations to ensure they are meeting these standards.

May kids attend online school instead of a local school while living in Belgium?

Yes, online schooling is an option in Belgium, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it's important to ensure that the online school is accredited and meets the Belgian educational standards.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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