Second School War

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Pierre Harmel, the education minister, whose controversial reforms sparked the War

The Second School War (French: Deuxième guerre scolaire, Dutch: Tweede schoolstrijd) was a political crisis in Belgium over the issue of the religion in education. The War lasted between 1950 and 1959 and was ended by a cross-party agreement, known as the School Pact, which clarified the role of religion in the state. It followed a crisis over the same issue in the 19th century, known as the First School War.


After victory in the 1950 elections, a Christian Social Party (PSC-CVP) government (under Joseph Pholien) came to power in Belgium. The new education minister, Pierre Harmel increased the wages of teachers in private (Catholic) schools and introduced laws linking the subsidies for private schools to the number of pupils. These measures were perceived by the anti-clerical Liberals and Socialists as a "declaration of war".

When the 1954 elections brought to power a coalition of Socialists and Liberals, the new Education Minister, Leo Collard, immediately set out to reverse the measures taken by his predecessor, founding a large number of secular schools and only permitting teachers with a diploma, forcing many priests out of the profession. These measures sparked mass protests from the Catholic bloc. A compromise was eventually found by the next government (a Catholic minority led by Gaston Eyskens) and the War was concluded by an agreement, known as the School Pact, on 6 November 1958.[1]

School Pact[edit]

The School War was finally ended by the "School Pact" (Pacte scolaire or Schoolpact). Under the agreement, parents could choose the system they preferred for their children. Publicly, the pact did not satisfy anyone and many in the Catholic camp, especially the Belgian Cardinal van Roey.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aries, Jacques (dir.) (2005). La laïcité histoires nationales - perspectives européennes. Lyon: J.André. ISBN 9782915009651. [page needed]
  2. ^ Vincent Dujardin, Michel Dumoulin (2008). L'union fait-elle encore la force?. Éd. Le Cri. [page needed]