Education in Flanders
|Flemish Ministry of Education and Training
(Vlaams Ministerie van Onderwijs en Vorming)
|Flemish Minister for Education||Pascal Smet (since 2009)|
|National education budget (2012)|
|Budget||€ 10 bn|
|Post secondary||193,215 ('09-'10)|
The Education in Flanders covers the Flemish Community, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, and consists of three networks (netten): government-provided education (gemeenschapsonderwijs), subsidized public schools (by provinces and municipalities) and subsidized free schools (mainly affiliated to the Catholic church).
In the past there were conflicts between state schools and catholic schools (de schoolstrijd), and disputes whether the latter should be funded by the government. The 1958 School Pact was an agreement of the three large political parties (the Christian democrat, socialist and liberal party) to end these conflicts.
Due to the federalization of Belgium, education is organised by the three communities since 1989. Since then, the Flemish Government organises education in the Flemish Region as well as in the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region where the Government of the French Community is also responsible. The Flemish Community organises the Dutch-language education but has to provide French-language schools in the 12 municipalities with language facilities within the Flemish Region.
The federal level only regulates very few general matters: the start and end of the compulsory education (which is between the ages of 6 and 18), the minimal conditions for issuing diplomas, and the pension scheme. Article 24 of the Belgian Constitution furthermore guarantees free education, the right of parents to choose their school and the (philosophical, ideological and religious) neutrality of government-provided schools. These state schools have to provide the choice between the teaching of one of the recognized religions and non-denominational moral teaching.
Education is organised through three networks.
First, there are state schools directly provided by the Flemish government, which is called Gemeenschapsonderwijs (literally "community education"), stylised as "GO!", education of the Flemish Community. They are both primary and secondary schools as well as adult education centres. Most secondary schools are commonly named (Koninklijk) Atheneum ("(Royal) Atheneum"), most of which were built in the 1960s during the schoolstrijd ("school struggle") in Belgium. One of the oldest athenea is the Royal Atheneum of Antwerp, which exists since 1808.
Secondly, there are subsidized public schools (officieel gesubsidieerd onderwijs), which are public schools organized by provinces and municipalities. Those provided by the municipalities are coordinated through the Education Secretariat of the Cities and Municipalities of the Flemish Community (Onderwijssecretariaat van de Steden en Gemeenten van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap; OVSG).
Lastly, there are subsidized free schools (vrij gesubsidieerd onderwijs), which is with about 70% of the pupils by far the largest group. They are mainly organized by an organization affiliated to the Catholic Church, organised by the Flemish Secretariat of the Catholic Education (Vlaams Secretariaat van het Katholiek Onderwijs; VKSO). Only eight schools are affiliated to the Protestant Church, so-called "Schools with the Bible". There are also non-denominational free schools, "method schools" using e.g. the Steiner, Freinet or Montessori education method.
Homeschooling is also legal since "learning" is mandatory in Belgium as opposed to attending school. Homeschooling is very rare, but the numbers are rising slowly. For the year 2007—2008 the number of home-schooled children in Flanders rose to 279 in basic education and 504 in secondary education, out of a total of 1.3 million.
Secondary education (secundair onderwijs) also consists of six years starting from the age of 12. Secondary school is divided into four general types. Each type consists of a set of different directions that may vary from school to school. The general types are as follows:
- General Secondary Education (Dutch: Algemeen Secundair Onderwijs; ASO. About 40% of all pupils): A very broad, general education, preparing for higher education.
- Technical Secondary Education (Dutch: Technisch Secundair Onderwijs; TSO. About 30% of all pupils): The TSO is divided into two groups of education again: TTK and STK. The TTK courses focus more on technical aspects, the STK courses focus more on practical matters.
- Vocational Secondary Education (Dutch: Beroepssecundair Onderwijs; BSO. About 30% of all pupils): Very practical and very job-specific education. Afterwards, several directions offer seventh, sometimes eighth, specialisation years.
- Art Secondary Education (Dutch: Kunstsecundair onderwijs; KSO. About 2% of all pupils): These schools link general and broad secondary education development with active art practice, ranging from performance arts to display arts.
Students with disabilities can follow Special Secondary Education (Dutch: Buitengewoon Secundair Onderwijs; BuSO), of different types.
The largest universities are the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, which is also the oldest one in the Low Countries, and Ghent University. Others are the University of Antwerp, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Hasselt University. Each has a fairly similar reputation in terms of quality but they differ in the number of courses and the options which a student has within their course.
Certain universities have agreements which give students the option of following certain courses in the French-speaking counterpart:
- Katholieke Universiteit Leuven - Université catholique de Louvain
- Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel - Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel - Université libre de Bruxelles
As part of the Bologna Process, the Flemish government set up in cooperation with the Dutch government an Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).
Education in Belgium, particularly in Flanders, is often considered to be of high quality.
In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Flanders is among the top countries. In mathematics for example, Flemish eighth-grade students were the 5th–6th best performing in 1995–2003 (Flanders is not included in the study for 2007).
Relatively many students of neighbouring countries, especially from the Netherlands, attend Flemish schools.
In primary and secondary education, this is some 5,950 students as of 2011 (25,200 if families from neighbouring countries but actually living in Flanders are included too), a rising number. On the other hand, a decreasing 1,422 Flemish students attend schools in neighbouring countries.
Medium of instruction
The language used as medium of instruction in schools subsidized by the Flemish government is Dutch. Flemish schools in Brussels provide Dutch-medium education, whereas French-medium education there is provided by or recognised by the Government of the French Community. The Flemish Government is however required to provide French-medium schools in the twelve municipalities with language facilities if there is demand for it.
Contrary to French-speaking Belgium and other European countries, bilingual education is still rare in Flanders.
In higher education, the use of English is allowed but restricted.
All Dutch-speaking schools teach French as first foreign language, English being the second foreign language. German and Spanish are often also available depending on the school direction.
Compared to other European countries, Flemish pupils aged 13–15 score remarkably well for their knowledge of English, which is taught as a second foreign language, although less so for French, which is the first foreign language.
Olyfran is a popular contest organised to test students' knowledge of the French language.
In Brussels, the Dutch-speaking school system functions separately from the French-language education system. For the Flemish schools in Brussels, The "Scholengroep Brussels"  serves as the organising body for most of the "state schools" ("GO!" education), while the Flemish Community Commission is the organising body for the Dutch-speaking Brussels schools that until 1995 belonged to the province of Brabant.
In February 2012, the Dutch-speaking schools in the Brussels-Capital Region counted 11,776 in pre-school education, 14,850 pupils in primary education and 12,535 in secondary education. These numbers have been growing considerably since several decades.
Some of the students speak Dutch at home, others French, but about half of those attending Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels use another language at home.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Education in Belgium.|
- Education in Belgium
- Education in the Netherlands
- Flemish Union of Students
- List of universities in Belgium
- Academic grading in Belgium
- Science and technology in Flanders
- Flemish Ministry for Education and Training (Dutch)
- Flemish Ministry for Education and Training (English)
- Gemeenschapsonderwijs (Dutch)
- Gemeenschapsonderwijs (English)
- (Dutch-speaking) Education in Brussels
- Higher Education in Flanders
- Eurypedia article on the Organisation of Flemish education
- DE VLAAMSE BEGROTING 2012, fin.vlaanderen.be
- Vlaams Onderwijs in Cijfers, ond.vlaanderen.be
- IPCO, Onderwijskoepel van de Scholen met de Bijbel in Vlaanderen en Brussel
- Education in Flanders - A broad view of the Flemish educational landscape, Ministry of the Flemish community, 2008
- Meer leerlingen uit onze buurlanden kiezen voor Vlaams onderwijs, 7 June 2012, N-VA
- (Dutch) Vlaamse tieners sterk in Engels, niet in Frans, 22 June 2012, De Standaard
- Scholengroep Brussel
- Over het Brussels Nederlandstalig onderwijs: Leerlingentelling op 1 februari 2012