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Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in School Education

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Overview Belgium (Flemish Community)

Contents

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Historical Development

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Political and Economic Situation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation and Governance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Private Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Qualifications Framework

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Funding in Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Higher Education Funding

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Adult Education and Training Funding

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Early Childhood Education and Care

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Childcare

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Childcare

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Childcare

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Pre-Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Pre-Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Pre-Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of the First Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in the First Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in the First Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of the Second and Third Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in the Second and Third Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in the Second and Third Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Vocational Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Vocational Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of secondary-after-secondary education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and learning in secondary-after-secondary education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in secondary-after-secondary education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Belgium-Flemish-Community:First Cycle Programmes

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Bachelor

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Second Cycle Programmes

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Distribution of Responsibilities

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Main Providers

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Main Types of Provision

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teachers and Education Staff

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management and Other Education Staff

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management Staff for Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Educational Support and Guidance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility and Internationalisation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Belgium-Flemish-Community:European Perspective

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Legislation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Glossary

Contents

2017

School infrastructure

The Minister of Education and Training, Hilde Crevits, invests strongly in renewing the school patrimony in Flanders. On 5 March 2017 she launched a call for the construction of new schools in Flanders and the Brussels Capital Region. An amount of 300 million euro (excl. VAT) is allocated for the construction of 150.000 m² of new school buildings.

Institutions of mainstream as well as special needs primary and secondary education, adult education institutions, boarding schools and Pupil Guidance Centres can put themselves up for financing. The call goes out to either individual school construction projects or to clusters of projects, but always with a minimal scale and investment cost of 20 million euro.

These schools will be realised by means of alternative financing. Already on 20 November 2016 the Flemish Government approved a parliamentary act on this new DBFM investment programme.

Within a DBFM programme one or multiple school organising bodies or school governing boards assign the Design, construction (Build), Financing and Maintenance of the building for a period of 30 years to a private partner. In the course of this 30 years the school governing boards pay an availability allowance to the private partner. The Flemish Government provides a DBFM allowance to the school governing board.

The recent call for projects is a sequel to the ongoing DBFM-programme ‘Schools of Tomorrow’. The latter contains 182 school construction projects with an investment value of 1,5 billion euro. The new DBFM-programme lays a number of new emphases: preference goes out to clusters of school construction projects and a larger direct involvement and responsibility is required of the school organising bodies and school governing boards.

The DBFM projects are part of the Masterplan on School Infrastructure, established in 2015.

Homework guidance

At the beginning of 2017 the Flemish Minister of Education Hilde Crevits granted 100.000€ to three projects on homework guidance in Gent, Ostend and Bruges. In an easily accessible way these projects support homework guidance, the development of study skills and language stimulation while offering family support at home for 400 societally vulnerable families. In this way they contribute to the prevention of and elimination of study arrears and the empowerment of parents and they offer parenting support in the framework of the school career of the children.

The projects cooperate with students. By doing so future teachers, remedial educationalists, applied psychologists, public health nurses and welfare officers are given the opportunity to bring theory into practice during their training.

The duration of the guidance depends on the project in question, but each pathway focuses on sustainable support to the family and consists of multiple visits and support sessions.

2016

Dual learning

From school year 2017-2018 the pilot project ‘School desk on the workplace’ will be expanded in a number of schools and companies. In 19 additional study courses youngsters will get the opportunity to take part in the pilot on dual learning. This will bring the total number of study courses where dual learning is offered to 26.

The extension of the courses of study of dual learning is an important step in the direction of a broad implementation of this learning system in Flanders. The additional courses of study are offered in Secondary-after-Secondary education (ISCED 4), and in specialisation years and the third stage of secondary education of the labour market oriented courses of study.

In addition to the new courses of study a limited extension is planned of the number of schools offering dual learning within the six courses of study already taking part in the pilot project from September 2016. Preparatory legislative work on a parliamentary act on dual learning is carried out.

Dual learning is one of the more than 70 measures of the Masterplan for the reform of secondary education.

Modernisation of secondary education

Internationally Flemish secondary education ranks amongst the best. In order to further develop the strong points of the system, to address possible points of improvement and to guarantee quality education for every pupil, a modernisation of secondary education in Flanders is carried out. The key ideas for this modernisation have been elaborated in three concept notes, approved by the Flemish Government in May 2016 and January 2017. The notes contain measures for pre-primary, primary and secondary education in Flanders.

Concrete steps were taken to raise participation in pre-primary education. In the future a child will have to participate for at least 250 half days in the third and final year of pre-primary education in order to be granted access to primary education. An extra participation allowance of 300€ in the first and 400€ in the second year of pre-primary education will be linked to enrolment and sufficient attendance by the child.

For primary education the concept notes introduce amongst others a strengthening of the knowledge of modern foreign languages. Language initiation in English, French or German will be possible from the first grade of primary education. From the third grade this may develop into fully fledged foreign language teaching.

From grade 5 in primary education there will be room for differentiation, with space for deepening and remediation. The appointment of specialised teachers in technology, music or languages could be possible. From school year 2017-2018 pilot projects will be developed in cooperation with the school guidance services to uncover which organisational models allow for a suitable and timely remediation of pupils to allow them to reach the attainment targets.

Ultimately by school year 2017-2018 every schools must at the end of primary education let all its pupils participate in one or more validated tests which contain at least two subject areas. By school year 2018-2019 at least three subject areas must be tested. The Primary Education Certificate guarantees that all pupils have the same opportunities at the start of secondary education. The transfer from primary to secondary education will be supported better, amongst others by a better flow of information between both levels of education.

The concept notes suggest a basic curriculum of 27 hours for all pupils in the first year of secondary education. In addition, pupils would have five hours at their disposal which they can fill in freely and which can be used to explore new subjects, to catch up, or to deepen existing knowledge. In the second year A a basic curriculum of 25 hours will be supplemented by a choice of subjects spanning seven hours, while pupils in the second year B will get a basic curriculum of 20 hours and 12 hours to be filled out freely.

The basic skills constitute one of the three levels of command of the attainment targets which will be introduced:

  1. Basic skills: goals to be reached by every pupil
  2. Attainment targets: minimum goals within the basic curriculum that the large majority of students need to meet
  3. Additional goals: goals with a larger level of abstraction or a higher level of difficulty which can be determined by the education providers themselves.

The study offer in the second and third stage will be made more transparent and rational. The offer is built along a matrix with three dimensions, namely ‘fields of study’, ‘finalities’ and ‘types of education’.  The current 29 study areas will be reduced to 8 fields of study:

  1. Languages and cultures
  2. STEM
  3. Arts and creation
  4. Agriculture and horticulture
  5. Economics and organisation
  6. Society and welfare
  7. Sports
  8. Nutrition and catering

Within these 8 fields of study the courses of study will content wise be arranged from abstract to practical. For each field of study the finality will be clearly determined: transition to higher education, entrance on the labour market or a combination of both.

The current matrix contains a study offer for fulltime general secondary education and special needs education type OV3. The study offer of the programmes in Secondary-past-Secondary and Part-time Vocational Secondary Education will be inserted at a later point in time.

On the basis of this new arrangement of the study offer various school concepts are possible. Two of them will be stimulated:

  • Domain schools organise within one field of study a coherent offer of courses of study within various finalities.
  • Campus schools organise within various fields of study a coherent offer of courses of study within various finalities.

The modernisation of secondary education will in the future be implemented in phases. The legislative framework is in elaboration to allow a roll-out of the modernized secondary education, grade by grade, from 1 September 2018 onwards.

Declaration of commitment for qualitative Islamic education

On 9 November 2016 the Flemish minster of Education and Training and the Muslim Executive of Belgium signed a declaration of commitment. The aim of the cooperation is to improve the quality of Islamic education by investing in teacher training and further support for teachers of Islam. The declaration of commitment refers to various elements which can be developed in the future:

  • The development by the Executive and the institutions of higher education of a programme for Islamic education for primary education.
  • The elaboration of a website with educational materials for teachers of Islam to consult.
  • The addition of an advisor to the inspection team, carrying out external school evaluations. The advisor will assist teachers and assess the current teaching materials with the aim of supporting its modernization when deemed necessary.

Reception education: additional funds for follow-up coaches

In the context of reception education additional financial means have been allocated to the follow-up school coaches. The latter support and guide non-Dutch speaking newly arrived children who transfer from reception education to mainstream education. In addition to guiding these pupils, the coaches also offer support to the schools where the children are enrolled. The additional funds allow the follow-up coaches to build and share expertise on the topic in question.

Work-based learning

On 1 September 2016 the pilot project ‘School desk on the workplace’ took off. This common initiative by the Flemish ministers of Education and Work is part of the further concretization of the system of dual learning. During three school year a combination of learning and working as a fully-fledged and valid learning pathway will be tested in 28 schools and five Syntra centres within six courses of study. On 10 June 2016 the Flemish Government passed a parliamentary act which determined the goals and regulation of the pilot project. In order to guarantee quality the system of dual learning will first be tested in this pilot project before laying it down in legislative procedures. 

From 1 September 2016 there are but two kinds of agreements for pupils in the current and future system of dual learning: 

  • The agreement alternance training applies to all youngsters who are trained at the workplace for at least 20 hours a week. It determines the rights and duties of the parties involved, the way in which an agreement can be terminated, liability, remunerations and holidays.
  • The apprenticeship agreement alternance training applies to all youngsters who are trained in a company for less than 20 hours a week. The modalities are similar to the agreement alternance training, with the exception of holidays and remunerations.

The introduction of a single statute constitutes a far-reaching administrative simplification for both the educational field as well as the business world.

Debate on attainment targets

The current Flemish Government wishes to evaluate, adjust and where necessary reduce the existing attainment targets and developmental objectives. In this context the Flemish Minister of Education and Training Hilde Crevits launched on 3 February 2016 a large-scale public debate on the attainment targets. The online debate, which lasted for 50 days, was structured along four questions:

  1. What should every youngster learn at school in order to take part in the society of tomorrow?
  2. What should every youngster learn at school in view of its personal development?
  3. What should every youngster learn at school in order to find a job in the future?
  4. What should every youngster learn at school in order to take part in lifelong learning?

The reactions of individuals and organisations on these four crucial questions were collected on the website www.onsonderwijs.be. The website became the forum to take part in the debate on attainment targets, to launch ideas, and to deepen one's knowledge on the topic. During the ’50 days of Education’ stakeholder groups in Flanders were stimulated to organise small-scale debates and conversations, intensive online discussions were carried on in the social media and on the online platform and also the media took actively part by means of editorials, interviews, blogs, … The results and output of all these activities were collected on the website.

In April 2016 five provincial meetings were organized where a broad public worked via various interactive methods and formats with the input delivered by the ’50 days of Education’. The campaign was concluded by a large event in the Flemish Parliament on 13 May 2016 called the Education Festival. On the basis of the results of the societal debate 750 stakeholders, of whom half were pupils, engaged a last time in conversation on the future attainment targets. 

19.000 visitors were active on the internet forum onsonderwijs.be, over 2.000 positions were defined and 169 civil society organisations shared their opinion. On 4 October 2016 the Commission Education of the Flemish Parliament presented the final report of the public debate.

Parallel to the broad societal debate the Umbrella Organisation of Flemish Pupils at the request of the minister and the Flemish Parliament organized a debate with pupils in secondary schools. On 29 August 2016 a 'Pupil Report' was presented to the Flemish Parliament in which 17.000 Flemish pupils expounded their views on the future attainment targets.

On 9 June 2016 the final report of a research project on the functioning and effectiveness of the current attainment targets was presented in the Flemish Parliament. The research, which lasted from September 2015 until February 2016, was carried out by the University of Leuven by order of the Flemish Minister of Education and Training Hilde Crevits. In 2016 Flanders also took part in the project ‘Governing Complex Education Systems’ of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The formulation of attainment targets was examined as a Flemish case study. On 17-8 October 2016 the results of the case study will be presented in a seminar.

In autumn a series of initiatives will follow in the Flemish Parliament where experts, stakeholders and members of parliament will engage in conversation on a number of crucial results from the broader conversation round. Together with the results of the scientific researches, the societal debate and the pupil debate, these workshops constitute the run-up to further parliamentary work. 

Financing of the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs

On 29 May 2016 the Flemish Parliament approved Parliamentary act OD XXVI. This act stipulates that in the framework of the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs (see 14.2.2.9) the guarantee scheme for staffing, which started in 2015-2016 in primary education, will be continued in school year 2016-2017. The guarantee scheme determines that when the number of pupils in special needs education drops, these means will be used for supporting pupils with specific needs in mainstream education by personnel members of special needs education. 

The guarantee scheme, which was originally developed for primary education, was at the start of school year 2016-2017 expanded to include secondary education.

On 6 July 2016 the Flemish Parliament approved a parliamentary act which states that in the case of a drop of the pupil number in special needs education also the operating funds will be used in mainstream education. The act lays down the division of these funds for the school years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. The means will partly go to special teaching materials for pupil with specific educational needs who take classes in mainstream education and partly to the materials, transport costs and others, of teachers from special needs education who are providing support to pupils with specific educational needs in mainstream education. The further elaboration of this arrangement will be laid down in a decision of the Flemish Government.

Concept notes modernising secondary education

At the end of May 2016 the Flemish Government approved two concept notes containing the key ideas for the modernization of Flemish secondary education. A first concept note comprises measures for primary education and the first stage (year 1 and 2) of secondary education, while a second one addresses the second and third stage of secondary education (year 3 to 6/7). Both concept notes concretise the Master Plan on Secondary Education.

In the context of the modernisation of secondary education the Flemish Government pays attention to raising the participation of children in pre-primary education. For that reason the concept note ‘Measures for primary education and the first stage’ foresees a participation allowance of three hundred euro for children who are sufficiently present in pre-primary education at the age of three and four. In addition, the compulsory attendance of five-year olds in the third year of pre-primary education would be raised from 220 to 250 half days.

For primary education the concept notes provides the possibility of language initiation in English, French and German from the first school year onwards. From the third year this can develop into fully-fledged foreign language education. From the fifth school year differentiation will be possible, with room for deepening or remediation, where specialist teachers in technology, music or language can be appointed. The transition from primary to secondary education will be supported better by amongst others a smooth transfer of information between both educational levels. The latter measures must contribute to reducing the number of early school leavers and grade repetition in Flemish education.

The concept note suggests a basic curriculum of 27 hours for all pupils in the first year of secondary education. In addition, pupils would have five hours at their disposal which they can fill in freely and which can be used to explore new subjects, to catch up or to deepen their knowledge. In the second year A a basic curriculum of 25 hours will be supplemented by a choice of subjects spanning 7 hours, while pupils in the second year B will get a basic curriculum of 20 hours and 12 hours to be filled out freely.

In the basic curriculum clear education goals would be set which have to be met by every pupil (basic skills). The basic skills constitute one of the three levels of command of the attainment targets which will be introduced:

  1. Basic skills: goals to be reached by every pupil
  2. Attainment targets: minimum goals within the basic curriculum that the large majority of students need to meet
  3. Additional goals: goals with a larger level of abstraction or a higher level of difficulty which can be determined by the education providers themselves.

The study offer in the second and third stage will be made more transparent and rational. The offer is built along a matrix with two dimensions, namely ‘fields of study’ and ‘finalities’. The current 29 study areas will be reduced to 8 fields of study:

  • Economics and organisation
  • Arts and creation
  • Construction and living
  • Care and welfare
  • Agriculture and horticulture
  • Nutrition and catering

Within these 8 fields of study the courses of study will content wise be arranged from abstract to practical. For each field of study the finality will be clearly determined: transition to higher education, entrance on the labour market or a combination of both.

On the basis of this new arrangement of the study offer various school concepts are possible. Two of them will be stimulated:

  • Domain schools organise within one field of study a coherent offer of courses of study within various finalities.
  • Campus schools organise within various fields of study a coherent offer of courses of study within various finalities.

School boards are not obliged to organise their schools as domain or campus schools but those who do will get access to financial stimuli for modern and qualitative technical equipment.

The modernisation of secondary education will in the future be implemented in phases. From 1 September 2018 modernized secondary education will be rolled out school year by school year.

Concept note administrative optimisation

On 27 May 2016 the Flemish Government approved the concept note ‘Administrative Optimisation’. This note provides the possibility of a larger cooperation between or a merger of school boards in Flanders. More concretely a distinction is made between individual school boards, a union of school boards and school boards with specific characteristics. Incentives with regard to personnel policy are provided as a stimulus for school boards to unite.

The economy of scale in the field of means and administration which will be produced by a larger cooperation or a merger of schools will result in a number of advantages for the pupils, teachers, school personnel, school heads and the school boards themselves:

  • a professional personnel policy
  • more opportunities to offer job security to starting teachers
  • a broad study offer
  • cooperation between mainstream and special needs education
  • more opportunities for professionalization of the functioning of the school boards
  • opportunities to share infrastructure
  • opportunities for a closer cooperation between compulsory education, part-time education in the arts and the Adult Education Centres

At the same time the concept note allows schools to keep their autonomy and guarantees the recognisability of the individual school, the individuality of the education level and the local anchoring of a school.

In cooperation with the education partner the concept note will be further operationalised.

Information-rich environments for schools: the launch of Data Loupe

On 6 April 2016 Data Loupe was launched. Data loupe is an interactive user-friendly web application on the website ‘My Education’. This site, managed by the policy domain of education and training, offers to schools information on their pupils such as pupil numbers, pupil characteristics, school progress and grade repetition, enrolment rate, number of pupils leaving the school, … These insights help schools to strengthen their own education policy and internal quality assurance.

The data are traditionally offered to schools by means of data bundles in pdf format. Thanks to Data Loup primary and secondary schools can from 6 April use these data themselves, in an interactive way. In the future the application will be expanded to higher education, adult education and part-time education in the arts.

For the moment a school can only access data on pupil numbers in Data Loupe. In the future the application will also offer information on grade repetition, school progress, certificates, enrolment rates, pupils leaving a school and the transition to higher education and the labour market.

Data Loupe is accessible to the wider public via the website Educational Statistics, where users may find data on enrolments in primary, secondary and higher education. 

Quality Assurance

Flanders is working on a renewed approach in the field of quality assurance in schools. In this approach a focus lies on the quality assurance policy developed by the schools themselves

In the framework of this renewal the education inspection developed together with representatives of the umbrella organisation and Community Education, the advisory services and other education partners the frame of reference for education quality. This framework formulates common expectation with regard to quality assurance. This must stimulate and support schools, centres and academies in realizing high quality education. On the basis of the frame of reference the internal quality assurance policy of schools will be granted a more central place in the process of external quality assurance.

Building on the reference framework for education quality the education inspection is now elaborating its renewed approach ‘Inspection 2.0’.

Administrative burden and increasing appeal to legal procedures

‘Operatie Tarra’ was launched in March 2015. The operation aims at reducing the administrative burden on teachers and schools and a follow-up study on the preceding research projects on administrative burden was carried out. Simultaneously, by means of focus groups with all educational partners involved, proposals for the reduction of the administrative burden were listed. The results of the study were presented to the Education Committee of the Flemish Parliament in January 2016.

Together with the trade unions and education providers an action plan is elaborated for seven concrete domains where the administrative burden for schools and teachers needs to decrease:

  1. Non-education related regulation
  2. Information and communication
  3. Career
  4. Quality and inspection
  5. Curriculum
  6. Support and policy making capacity
  7. Computerisation / digitalisation (in schools)

Synchronised internet education

Synchronised internet education (SIE) offers the possibility for distance learning to pupils that are unable to enjoy education at their school due to illness, maternity rest or the ramifications of an accident. This is done live through linked computers which allows for interaction with teachers and students.

SIE supports the learning process, diminishes learning disparities, and facilitates the return to the normal class situation. The relationship between the absent pupil and his or her peers as well as with the teacher, is maintained.

Non-profit association Bednet is in charge of collecting and evaluating requests for SIE. It also provides equipment and a consultant which initiates, monitors, conducts and facilitates the project.

The association ensures a broad service to parents and schools, but the education institution stays responsible for the education path of the pupil. 350 SIE sets are available as of January 2016.

This means 350 pupils can simultaneously enjoy SIE.

On 1 September 2016, this will be augmented to 600 sets. Until that time SIE is capped at 10 simultaneous projects for toddlers to allow the organisers to obtain experience with this target audience. From school year 2016-2017 the limitation of the number of toddlers in the SIE project is lifted.

Fight against radicalisation

Further actions have been implemented to counter radicalisation in accordance with the 16 January 2015 concept note on radicalisation and the 2015 Action Plan ‘Prevention of processes of radicalisation which may result in extremism and terrorism' (see 14.2.2.14).

Tools were developed to support primary workers that are confronted with the reality of radicalisation:

  • A new edition of the newsletter ‘Schooldirect’ was dedicated to radicalisation. It also mentioned contact points in case of problems or questions relating to radicalisation. This newsletter was distributed to some 14.300 subscribers amongst which are all Flemish principals of all education levels (incl. student guidance centres (CLB), excl. HEIs).
  • The Education magazine ‘Klasse’ launched a first live stream session ‘Klasse-live’, during which teachers could (anonymously) ask questions on radicalisation to two experts (one academic and one teaching guide).
  • Within the Department of Education, a central contact point was established for schools and CLBs.
  • A contact point for radicalisation was also established within every school/ CLB umbrella group to have a clear line of communication for information and knowledge between the central authority and education institutions. Frequent meetings between these people has led to the establishment of expertise in support of colleagues.
  • A successful call for study materials learning materials and educational sources was launched on the free online platform for teachers ‘Klascement’. Teachers can source from these to inspire each other and share materials for pupils of all ages.
  • A script ‘Guidelines for prevention, tackling and handling radicalisation in education” was developed. These guidelines support schools in meeting new challenges answer following questions:
    • Which preventive actions are possible to avert radicalisation?
    • Which actions are possible if signals of radicalisation are observed with pupils without immediate threat for school and/or society?
    • Which actions are possible if signals of radicalisation are observed with pupils with immediate threat for school and/or society?
    • What actions are possible if we are confronted with disturbing information on a third party?

All of the above information is supplemented with testimonials, best practices and tips on signal recognition, prevention, remediation and auxiliary channels. The resulting dossier on radicalisation is published online. It is regularly edited and improved to answer newly identified needs and has been translated to French.

In the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks, a total of 11 extra ‘Schooldirect’ newsletters were distributed to school administrations, teachers and student guides with tips on how to talk to parents and (young) children, tips on additional vigilance, a bundle of focus markers for a specific emergency plan, information on access and surveillance of buildings, and information of cooperation between school and police forces and information on the online dossier on radicalisation.

An Islam expert group has been assembled to contrive a counter argument for radical Islam. These theological adept experienced in the living environment of youngsters, can clarify interpretations of Islam and its norms and values for the benefit of youngsters, classes and primary workers. These primary workers on their part can then confidently talk with pupils and/or his or her parents. Additionally, these experts can work preventively on demand of the schools to guide class conversations on personal beliefs. Remediating actions are also possible in case primary workers have identified signals of possible radicalisation or if a school is confronted with a Belgian pupil returning from participating in the Syrian war. These demand customised interventions are free for schools, pupil guides and time-out project coaches. Early 2016 the expert group had already answered almost a hundred of the one hundred and fifty requests. An example of an expert lecture to teachers can be found here.

The dialogue between ideologies has been strengthened to allow theological classes to support the dialogue between students of different personal beliefs. After consultation rounds between recognised institutions, educational umbrella organisation and community education representatives, 24 inter-ideological competences have been agreed upon within the framework of the common charter. A new commitment agreement has been reached between community, municipal and provincial education umbrella organisations, signed on 28 January 2016. Providers of theological classes commit to contribute to the educational project of the school. They will be able to join the school team and participate in training sessions organised by the school.

Realising a professional, challenging and more varied teaching career

The Flemish Minister of education will continue the career debate in 2016 in order to develop a general proposal for action. This happens in two working groups:

  1. Assignment and career
  2. Leaves

In the short run this must result in measures that initiate a sustainable teaching career.

Administrative optimisation

In the framework of administrative optimisation more cooperation between schools of the official subsidized public education sector (municipal and provincial education) and community education is stimulated. A group of experts, which received in 2013 the assignment to reflect on this matter, presented her final report in November 2014. Based on this advice the public providers of education held discussions on themes such as the planning of the educational offer, the curricula, the regulations on the legal status of employees, the pedagogical project and neutrality, and an administrative structure which allows for more cooperation. This resulted in the 25 January 2016 agreement on more structural and profound cooperation in each of these domains.

2015

Simplifying and renewing the enrolment policy

In Flanders a new legislative framework for enrolments in compulsory education is being elaborated. At the forefront of this reform is a simplification of the system and a strengthening of the free school choice.

When elaborating the new legislative framework specific attention is paid to equal chances for every child, the mixed composition of society and the commitment of the school governing boards. The simplified enrolment policy strives to reach the following goals:

  • a maximal freedom of choice for the parents;
  • realizing optimal learning and development opportunities for all pupils;
  • avoiding exclusion, segregation and discrimination;
  • in addition for Brussels: protecting equal educational and enrolment opportunities for Dutch-speakers and retaining the Dutch-speaking character of the educational offer financed or subsidized by the Flemish Community.

The new framework will also optimize the right to enrolment and the free school choice in special needs education and offering a solution for the problem of double enrolments.

In a first stage (March 2015) the Committee on Education in the Flemish Parliament organised five hearings with various actors within the field of enrolment policy. In parallel experts were invited by the cabinet of the Flemish Minister of Education and her administration. The experts, each starting from his or her own expertise, formulated points of particular interest for the new legislative framework.

This input will also serve as a basis for a concept note that will be presented to the Commission on Education of the Flemish Parliament in the autumn of 2015 .

Pupil guidance

Failing at school, a wrong choice of studies and a lack of motivation are often reoccurring reasons why youngsters leave school early. Also scholastic delay and truancy contribute to this phenomenon. In order to allow a maximum number of youngsters to leave secondary education holding a qualification, Flanders is working on a reform of the pupil guidance system.

To avoid overlap and fragmentation in the system of pupil guidance, the responsibilities of parents, teaching teams, schools, Pupil Guidance Centres (PGCs) and welfare centres will be better geared to one another.

At the end of September 2015 the results of an audit of the system of pupil guidance were presented. This audit consists on the one hand of a performance audit of the PGCs and on the other hand of an academic review of the system of pupil guidance in a Flemish and international perspective. On the basis of the results of the audit of the PGCs a decision will be taken, in dialogue with the centres and its users, on the future responsibilities and organisation of the centres.

On the basis of the audit a concept note on the reform of the system of pupil guidance was elaborated. The concept note ‘Basic outlines for the reform of pupil guidance in Flanders’ was approved by the Flemish Government on 11 December 2015. In preparation of this concept note input was also collected via working visits, focus groups per guidance field of the PGC, a reflection exercise within the Commission Pupil Guidance of the Flemish Education Council (VLOR) and a brainstorm with the management teams of the Pupil Guidance Centres.

The goal of the concept note is to clearly define the roles and tasks of all actors involved (pupils, parents, school, Pupil Guidance Centre, School Advisory Services, social assistance, …), for both primary and secondary education, and mainstream and special needs education. The concept note is based on the basic principle that every pupil has a right to professional and qualitative pupil guidance. The Minister for Education is responsible for the elaboration of this concept note in 2016.

Also the approved concept note ‘Together against school dropout’ (see 14.2.1.6.) must contribute to pushing back truancy and early school leaving.

Additional information can be found on the website of the Flemish Department of Education and Training.

Administrative burden and increasing appeal to legal procedures

Reducing the administrative burden which hampers schools and teachers in the autonomous practice of their work is an important policy priority of the current Minister of Education. Therefore Flanders is working on a global approach to reduce this administrative burden. The policy recommendations which resulted from two research projects on the administrative burden in compulsory education and higher education, produced by the Antwerp Management School and Ghent University, are used as a basis for the policy development. In these research projects various aspects of the school organisation were addressed, such as internal quality assurance, external quality assurance, continuing professional development of school leaders and staff, internal organisation of the institutions themselves and various steering mechanisms and rules which are imposed at macro, meso and micro level.

On 23 March 2015 the starting shot was given for ‘operation Tare’, which aims at reducing the administrative burden on teachers and schools. In the spring of 2015 a follow-up study on the preceding research projects on administrative burden was carried out. Simultaneously, by means of focus groups with all educational partners involved, proposals for the reduction of the administrative burden were listed. The results of this list of proposals and the results of the study will be presented to the Education Committee of the Flemish Parliament at the beginning of 2016.

The government, inspection, representative organisations and their school advisory services, and trade unions will be asked whether they are prepared to engage further in diminishing the administrative burden. The following questions will guide the reflection:

  • How can the organisation play a role in helping to reduce administrative burden?
  • In which way cooperation can be set up on various topics?
  • How can the services to schools be optimized?
  • How can we reinforce the communication?  

Departing from the core tasks and responsibilities of every actor, actions and a timing can be set up.

A similar exercise was carried out by the administration and the inspection in the period of October to December 2015, and this for the following topics: curriculum, quality assurance and education inspection, regulation not tied to education, information and communication, support and the policy making capacity and computerisation/digitalization. A similar exercise with the unions is currently ongoing. These exercises must in the first half of 2016 result in a supported action plan.  

To conclude, in the framework of reducing the administrative burden, Flanders also invests in the modernization of its service provision. Also in 2015 the data flows were further simplified, automatized and digitalized. De options of the data bases DISCIMUS, DAVINCI and DHO were further refined and extended. From September 2015 the salary letters of staff working in the educational sector in Flanders are by default delivered in an electronic version.

In addition to an administrative burden the domain of education is also facing an increase of appeals to legal procedures. Decisions by class committees, school governing boards and professors are increasingly often brought before court. In dialogue with the education institutions, students and parents the Flemish government wants to restore trust in the professionalism of teachers and professors. In this context the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) and the Flemish Council of University Colleges (VLHORA) presented on 12 May 2015 a summary note on the functioning of the Council for Disputes on Decisions on Study Progress. This note will be discussed further with the council itself, the institutions and the students in order to reach solutions for the reported problems. 

Work-based learning

On 23 January 2015 the Flemish Government approved a concept note on work-based learning. This note is a joint document drafted by the Flemish Minister of Education and the Flemish Minister of Work. On the basis of advice given by the Flemish Education Council (VLOR), the Flanders Social and Economic Council (SERV), the Flemish Agency for Entrepreneurial Training (SYNTRA Vlaanderen) and other partners involved the note was refined, which resulted in a second concept note approved by the Flemish Government on 3 July 2015. Both notes form the basis for a reform of the dual system, which must result in a revision of the parliamentary act on work-based learning.

The concept notes introduce a reform of the current system of work-based learning and the organisation of professionally oriented courses of study together with a simplification of the existing systems of work-based learning (traineeships in vse and tse, part-time learning and the apprenticeship contract) into one comprehensive statute. In Flanders the system of work-based learning will be developed as a fully-fledged learning path which aims at obtaining an educational qualification. The system of work-based learning will also allow to obtain partial qualifications that contribute to a sustainable deployment on the labour market. In the framework of the reform of the system attention is also paid to the quality of vocational training programmes.

In the new system every young person who is ready for the labour market will have some real work experience, which will allow him/her to enter the labour market well prepared. In addition, the system will lead to qualifications which allow the youngster to enter higher education. The learning component will be more strongly combined with and adjusted to the work experience. Young people of school age who are not (yet) ready for the labour market will receive a specific offer from education.

The objectives of the new system of work-based learning are:

  1. improvement of screening and induction
  2. simplification and harmonisation of the agreements and statutes of the youngsters
  3. simplification of the incentives for training companies
  4. reinforcement of the sectorial approach
  5. uniform regulation for the recognition and quality assurance of training companies
  6. regulation of course supervision (in its various facets)
  7. strengthening the matching processes and the learning time

The evaluation of the current parliamentary act on work-based learning is being finalised. At the end of 2013 an administrative working group on the harmonization of the statutes within the system of work-based learning already issued an internal note with a proposal for the simplification of the existing agreements. Both sources (the evaluation report and the internal note) will provide input for a future reform of the system. 

In preparation of the implementation of the new system of work-based learning a number of pilot projects will be set up, for which the ministers of education and work launched a call in July 2015. Also the experience of these projects will feed the future system of work-based learning.

An inter-ministerial committee is steering the reforms towards an integrated system of work-based learning, discusses the approach and the progress made and consults the relevant actors within the sectors of education and work and the social partners. 

This reform of the system of work-based learning contributes to the upgrade of technical and vocational secondary education, which constitutes an important step in the modernisation of secondary education in Flanders (see also 14.2.1.5).

Implementation Master Plan Secondary Education

Internationally Flemish secondary education ranks amongst the best. To retain this position the Flemish minister of education continued to implement, also in 2015, in close consultation with the educational and social partners, the Master Plan for Secondary Education. This plan, which was approved by the Flemish Government on 4 June 2013, must allow for the strong points of the current system to be further developed and for possible points of improvement to be addressed. Throughout this process a focus lies on the provision of quality education for every pupil in Flanders.

In April 2015 the Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Training of the Flemish Ministry of Education presented the results of a screening of all 256 courses of study in the second and third stages of mainstream secondary education. The participation grade of each discipline and its chances for success when entering higher education or the labour market were evaluated. The screening allowed to uncover possible weaknesses in the study offer and to check the effectiveness of the various courses. On 15 June 2015 the results of a screening of the first grade of secondary education, including the basic options and professional fields, were presented. Both screenings represent an important first step in the modernisation of secondary education, where the finality of each discipline will be more clearly formulated and the current study offer will be rationalised and brought up to date.

In order to guarantee that every pupil ends up in the right place when entering secondary education a decision on access to the first grade of secondary education is being elaborated. In addition, measures will be taken to discourage retention in secondary education.

In dialogue with all educational partners a concept note on the architecture of the future Flemish secondary education is being prepared. The courses of study in secondary education will be situated on a matrix according to content-related domains and results. Each course of study must ensure a good connection with higher education and/or the labour market. Thereto, a better alignment between attainment goals and the competences needed to enter higher education will be set up. All labour market oriented courses of study will result in one or more professional qualifications.

In particular, there will be more attention for upgrading technical and vocational secondary education. Work-placed learning will be a structural component of the labour market oriented courses of study. For the further implementation of the compulsory work placements, which were already introduced in September 2014 in over more than 140 courses of study, a declaration of engagement will be concluded with the educational partners and sectors. In addition, the elaboration of an integrated system of work-based learning constitutes an important step in the upgrading of technical and vocational secondary education (see also 14.2.1.4).

In the framework of the modernisation of secondary education also the orientation project of pupils will be strengthened. New is the orientation test at the end of secondary education, which constitutes the final piece of the pathway of each pupil concerning his/her choice of studies. In September 2015 the Flemish Council of Universities and University Colleges (VLUHR) received the assignment to elaborate a project proposal on the orientation test. In this framework a group of experts will be appointed to develop a generic, institution-neutral orientation test which will be compulsory but non-binding.

In expectation of the further implementation of the master plan on secondary education and the update of the study offer the Minister of Education introduced a ban on launching new programmes in fulltime mainstream general secondary education, which entered into force on 1 September 2015, with the exception of STEM-related courses of study.

Truancy and early school leaving

On 26 June 2015 the Flemish Minister of Education presented, together with her colleagues from Welfare and Work, the concept note ‘Together against school drop-out’ to the Flemish Government.

The concept note contains a comprehensive plan with more than 50 action points. The goals of the note are to reduce the number of early school leavers, to push back truancy, and to guarantee study entitlement. A focus is put on prevention, together with actions against pupils playing truant.

With this concept note Flanders responds to the European recommendation to address in an integrated manner the problems of early school leaving and truancy by use of the European frame of reference. For this reason measures are elaborated within the four domains of monitoring, prevention, intervention and compensation.

The Flanders Social and Economic Council (SERV) and the Flemish Education Council (VLOR) formulated an advice on the concepte note on respectively 28 September 2015 and 12 October 2015. At the end of October 2015 the discussion of the concept note with the various stakeholders(providers of education, trade unions, cities, existing networks on study entitlement, Pupil Guidance Centres, etc.) was round off.

Operating funds in compulsory education

The financing mechanism in mainstream primary and secondary education in Flanders has been evaluated in two ways.

A first research by the Catholic University of Leuven verified whether schools use their funds according to the principles and the objectives of the parliamentary act on the financing of primary and secondary education which entered into force on 1 November 2008. It also identifies the factors which contribute to divergence between schools in the use of the resources available.

At the same time the Audit Office carried out an audit of the attribution and appropriation of the operating funds in mainstream primary and secondary education. The office verified whether the attribution was transparent, predictable and stable. In addition, it examined whether the supervision by the government of the appropriation of the funds was adequate. To conclude the audit verified whether the financing goals were realized.  

The results of both researches were presented and explained in the Flemish Parliament on 25 June 2015. On 24 September 2015 the Flemish Education Council (VLOR) issued an advice on both reports. On the basis of this report further consultations are planned with the educational partners in order to identify these elements of the financing system which can be adjusted. Also the results of the recent review by the OECD on the financing of the Flemish educational system will be taken into account in the further debate on the financing system.

Administrative optimisation

In consultation with the educational partners the Flemish Minister of Education is working on an optimisation of the managerial and administrative aspects of education and on a structural cooperation between school governing boards. In this process both the diversity of the Flemish educational landscape as well as the principle of subsidiarity are respected, with attention for regional embedment.

In the framework of this administrative optimisation more cooperation between schools of the subsidized public education sector (municipal, urban, provincial and community education) is stimulated. A commission of experts, which received in 2013 the assignment to reflect on this matter, presented her final advice in November 2014. On the basis of this advice the concerned providers of education held conversations between January and April 2015 on themes such as the planning of the educational offer, the curricula, the regulations on the legal status of employees, the pedagogical project and neutrality, and an administrative structure which allows for more cooperation. The advice of the experts was presented and discussed in the Educational Commission of the Flemish Parliament on 18 June 2015. The providers of the subsidized public education sector themselves are now working until the end of 2015 on a proposal for more structural and profound cooperation.

On 30 June 2015 the parliamentary act on the integration of the sectorial subsidies in the Community Fund was passed by the Flemish Parliament. As a result of this act the subsidies for accompanying educational policy will be integrated into the Community Fund from 1 January 2016. This grants local authorities more autonomy for pursuing a accompanying educational policy.

In addition to a closer cooperation between the schools of the subsidized public education sector attention is paid to the dossier of the free school choice. It must be possible to involve every public school as a free school choice.

A concept note on the administrative optimisation of the Flemish educational landscape is expected by the end of 2015.

Parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs

On 1 September 2015 the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs became fully operational. From this day on every child in Flanders has the right to enrol in a school for mainstream education, on the condition that reasonable adaptations are made. The school advisory services, the pupil guidance services, the inspection and the schools cooperate closely in order to allow for a gradual implementation of the new act. 

In the build-up to 1 September 2015 the Flemish Government determined on 13 February 2015, on the basis of a proposal by the Flemish Minister of Education Hilde Crevits, which reports are needed for a pupil with specific educational needs to be enrolled in mainstream education and which reports are needed for a pupil to be granted access to special needs education.

The implementation of the parliamentary act also allows to maintain a high quality special needs education for those pupils for whom no reasonable adaptations are possible within a mainstream school. This includes amongst others the new type 9 for pupils with autism and normal intelligence, which was approved by the Flemish Government on 6 February 2015. This type of special needs education will be organised from school year 2015-2016 onwards. Also on 1 September 2015 a new type called ‘basic offer’ was introduced, which replaces type 1 and type 8 in special needs education. This new type accommodates children and youngsters with specific educational needs for whom no reasonable adaptations are possible in mainstream education.

Thanks to a guarantee regulation the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs transfers part of the support and means from special needs education to mainstream education. By doing so the services from special needs education can be provided in mainstream education.

School infrastructure and capacity

On 17 July 2015 the Flemish Government approved the concept note ‘Master Plan School Building’. The plan contains an integral approach towards school infrastructure and is built around five strategic goals:

  1. The renewal of the existing educational patrimony
  2. The extension of the educational capacity
  3. The use of alternative sources of financing
  4. Focus on the school buildings of the future
  5. The promotion of long-term planning and a managerial approach

The plan responds to the needs and challenges in the field of school infrastructure and capacity in Flanders and Brussels. It lays a number of new emphases: in the future the chronology of a building file will no longer be the only criterion to grant subsidies, the financial means for capacity will be integrated in the regular expenses and it will be possible to use new and renewed school buildings more easily for various purposes. This capacity monitor allows to assess more accurately the local capacity needs, which in turn allows for the drafting of a multiannual budgetary programming for the distribution of the capacity means.

On 8 October 2015 the Capacity Monitor on School Infrastructure was presented in the Flemish Parliament. This monitor for primary and secondary education offers refined prognoses of the expected demand for places in classes and a framework which allows to compare this demand with the expected capacity offer in the future. For the first time such a detailed scientific research on the capacity needs up to 2030 was carried out in Flanders.

In 2015 building subsidies for a total amount of 35 million euro were granted on the basis of locally delivered and centrally available data on capacity and by use of a number of objective parameters. An additional 15 million euro was granted via the regular financing means to projects on the waiting list that also strive for an extension of the capacity. With this 50 million euro a minimum of 7.300 additional places in classes were created.

Quality assurance

Flanders is working on a renewed approach in the field of quality assurance in schools, called ‘Inspection 2.0’. In this approach a focus lies on the quality assurance policy which is developed by schools themselves. The internal quality policy of a school will be granted a more central place in the external quality control of the educational sector. In the future the inspection will focus more on transparency and a participative approach towards external school evaluations.

As part of ‘Inspection 2.0’ the reference framework for educational quality is complemented by  setting up clear quality criteria, norms and/or scales of development. In this way the findings of a quality control executed by a school itself can be used as a point of departure for an external school evaluation by the educational inspection. This will result in an even more differentiated external school evaluation, both as concerns intensity as well as frequency.

By order of the minister the inspection took on a coordinating role when developing this common framework of reference for educational quality. It prepared the content of this dossier, taking into account other developments such as the implementation of the parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs (see also 14.2.1.9). Consultation with the stakeholders was started up in June 2015.

In 2015 the inspection also prepared the renewed approach in the field of quality assurance by organising an international conference, by drafting a literature review and by establishing contacts with researchers.

In addition to ‘Inspection 2.0’ Flanders is also paying attention to an integrated quality framework for the vocational programmes. Within the concept note on the reform of the system of work-based learning (see also 14.2.1.4) reference was made to the quality of vocational programmes as a point of particular interest.

Debate on attainment targets

The current Flemish Government wishes to evaluate, adjust and where necessary reduce the existing attainment targets and developmental objectives. The attainment targets will be formulated clearly and in an ambitious way as to guarantee they meet the societal developments and needs of the 21st century.

On 29 October 2015 the Flemish Parliament start up a broad societal debate on attainment targets. The debate, which will continue until 2016, will also address the question which basic curriculum every pupil in education must receive.

The planned parliamentary debate was prepared by the policy domain of education in the course of 2015. At the end of June 2015 the Minister of Education granted an assignment for a scientific review in order to reach a well-founded analysis of the current attainment targets as an instrument for monitoring the quality of the Flemish education. The report of this review, which started on 1 September 2015, provides input for the parliamentary debate.

Information-rich environments for schools

Flanders is working on the elaboration of information-rich environments which may support schools in their internal quality assurance and self-evaluation. By investing more in the production, valorisation and use of knowledge, school leaders and managements can base their policy on valid information.

Also in 2015 a number of processes were further computerised. Work continued on the simplification, automation and digitalization of the data flows. The possibilities of the databases DISCIMUS, DAVINCI and DHO were further refined and extended and various data warehouse projects were started up. In school year 2014-2015 schools also received for the first time a data bundle on the participation rate and the study efficiency of their pupils in the first year of higher education and on early school leaving.

At the end of primary education all Flemish pupils are being tested. Departing from the tests developed by the various educational umbrella organisations and the parallel tests in the framework of the National Assessment Programme a ‘tookit with validated tests’ is being elaborated. Schools can use the toolkit at their own discretion in the framework of internal quality assurance. The instrument also aims to collect data at aggregate level. In preparation of the realization of the toolkit a consultation was set up in April 2015 between the teams who are responsible for drafting the various tests. The information stemming from this research was used when developing scenarios for the validation of the tests. These scenarios are currently further elaborated.

In June 2015 cooperation between the government and the education providers with regard to the ‘Knowledge Centre on Education and Training’ was formalized in a declaration of engagement, signed by all parties involved.

Flanders also continues to participate in international comparative research, which forms an important source of information on the quality of the Flemish education. Participation in PISA 2018 and TALIS 2018 has been confirmed.

Also in the future attention will be paid to developing a vision on information-rich environments for schools with the formulation of concrete proposals to guarantee that the information which schools receive responds better to their needs.

Fight against radicalisation

On 16 January 2015 the Flemish Government approved a concept note on radicalisation, followed by the Action Plan ‘Prevention of processes of radicalisation which may result in extremism and terrorism', which was approved on 3 April 2015 by the Government. The note and action plan contain twelve concrete policy priorities which are applicable to many (local) Flemish actors: youth work, community sports, assistance, Flemish Employment Services and Vocational Training Agency, education, community development, welfare, Integrated Youth Support and integration. These actors must prevent, detect and remedy radicalisation. The note assigns an important role to local governments in their cooperation with local actors.

With the concept note and action plan the Flemish Government aims amongst others at centralising and disseminating the expertise which exists in a number of Flemish cities, at developing training packages for people on the ground such as youth workers, imams and teachers, and at filling the gaps which exist in the study of radicalisation. For education the aim was set to decrease the number of early school leavers. Parents who notice first signs of radicalisation may turn to the pupil guidance centre for an answer to their questions. These centres must also be an important partner for the teachers: when they notice signals of radicalisation, they can refer a pupil to the pupil guidance centre.

As part of the prevention of radicalisation in schools the Flemish Department of Education and Training launched on 20 January 2015 a new contact point ‘deradicalisation education’. On the same day all schools in Flanders received by electronic newsletter a comprehensive overview of the various entities which can offer support in the framework of the prevention of radicalisation in education and of the options available for training. To conclude the Flemish Minister of Education decided in March 2015 to establish a team of 15 to 20 experienced Islam teachers, who may at a school’s request visit schools to talk about Islam with radicalising youngsters. These Islam teachers will receive specific training and coaching. The network of Islam teachers is one of the measures incorporated in the Action Plan.

Internet education for long-term or chronically ill children

New regulations on synchronous internet education were integrated in Education Decree XXIV, which was approved by the Flemish Government on 23 April 2014. The parliamentary act determines that from September 2015 on (i.e. the start of school year 2015-2016) internet education becomes a right for all ill children. For the year 2015 the financial support for Bednet was raised by the Flemish Minister of Education from 250.000€ to one million euro. On 18 December 2015 the Flemish Government granted a subsidy of 2,3 million euro to Bednet for the fiscal year 2016.The services offered by the NGO are free for both the children and the schools.

Since 2007-2008 distance learning for ill children is organised by Bednet. The NGO offers synchronous internet education to long term or chronically ill children in Dutch speaking schools in Flanders and Brussels. It allows pupils to keep up with the subject material and avoids social isolation as a result of their illness. By providing synchronous internet education the NGO guarantees the right to education for all pupils. On 27 January 2015 Bednet received the Prize for European Citizenship 2014.

Additional information can be found on the website of Bednet.

Realising a professional, challenging and more varied teaching career

Flanders wishes to attract sufficient and highly qualitative teachers who continue to work with enthusiasm and dedication. In order to turn the educational sector into an attractive employer a comprehensive career vision is being developed together with the providers of education and the trade unions. Hereby the flexibility and autonomy of the educational institutions to pursue a genuine personnel policy is taken into account. Attention is paid not merely to teachers but by extension to the entire school team.

In 2015 a couple of measures were taken that in the short term must result in more sustainable teaching careers. The permanent appointments of teachers and other staff members were advanced and secondary schools can from 1 September 2015 in a more flexible way use the points of their lump sums.

In the fall of 2015 the Flemish Minister of Education will continue the career debate in order to develop a global proposal of action. In the short run this must result in measures that initiate a sustainable teaching career. On 9 October 2015 the minister presented a note to the Flemish Government which will start up the career debate.

STEM

Please see 14.5.1.1.

Encouraging entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial initiative

Please see 14.5.1.2.

Enhancing (digital) literacy and media literacy

Please see 14.5.1.3.

Language policy

Please see 14.5.1.4.

2014

Action plan STEM 2012-2020

Please see 14.5.2.1.

Admission requirements for primary education

Please see 14.1.2.1.

Legal status of pupils and participation in school governance

On 4 April 2014 the Flemish Parliament approved a parliamentary act on the legal status of the pupil. The act serves a triple goal:

  • to reinforce the legal status of pupils in primary and secondary education;
  • to enhance the accountability of schools towards employees, parents and pupils; and
  • to increase participation at school.

A focus on better communication of both the rights and duties of pupils and on motivation and objectivity of decisions must result in an optimisation of the provision of education and in reducing the potential for conflict. To that end the act includes various measures with regard to the provision of broader information and communication by the schools, the expansion of the minimal content of school rules, a new regulation on disciplinary sanctions, and the reinforcement of the possibility of appeal by installing an external appeal authority on the level of the school communities.

In addition, the new acts makes various alterations to the parliamentary act on participation of 2 April 2004. The bodies enabling participation at school are maintained, although the accompanying procedures and modalities are brought up to date in view of enhancing transparency and simplification and eliminating weaknesses. In addition, due attention is paid to the participation of vulnerable groups. From school year 2014-2015 onwards the school governing boards, school heads and all participation bodies are obliged to make an effort to better involve socially vulnerable groups in their school policy.

This measure will be incorporated in a new action plan on study entitlement. One comprehensive policy will be developed on study entitlement, truancy and early school leaving. These three topics are closely linked and therefore require a similar approach. For the elaboration of this new integrated action plan, measures will be taken from the already existing action plans, which will be supplemented with new actions. The existing plans will be further implemented in the framework of the new action plan. 

Parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs

On 12 March 2014 the Flemish Parliament approved a parliamentary act on measures for pupils with specific needs. The aim of the new legislation is to make education more inclusive. It delineates more clearly the admission requirements to the different strands of special education. The act also contains measures which allow pupils with specific educational needs to participate fully, effectively and an equal terms in regular schools and classrooms.

In a first phase the Flemish Government will take measures with regard to quality diagnostics, including a solution for pupils with autism spectrum disorder. A focus will lie on skills development and professionalisation of educational staff. The right of pupils to reasonable adaptations by the school to their special educational needs will be guaranteed in accordance with the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The current procedure of capacity assessment during enrolment will be rewritten and legal protection will be reinforced.

The provisions of the parliamentary act will be gradually implemented from school year 2015-2016 onwards. For the implementation of these provisions, see also 14.2.1.2. ‘Implementation of parliamentary act on pupils with specific educational needs’.

Additional information (in Dutch) may be found on the website.

Evaluation of the school advisory services

The parliamentary act on the quality of education from 8 May 2009 provides for an evaluation of the School Advisory Services, the permanent support centres of the Pupil Guidance Centres and the Consortium of Sector-bound School Advisory Services to be carried out every six years. A first evaluation was planned to take place in the school year 2012-2013. The commission which was assigned this first evaluation task started its activities in November 2012, with a mandate up to 31 March 2014.

The commission consisted of representatives from the academic world, public education, private education, the department of Education and Training and experts in quality assurance. The group aimed for a descriptive and development oriented assessment, with both strong points and points for improvement and recommendations. The assessment thus exceeded a mere classification in good, sufficient or insufficient. The commission based itself on information files on each organisation to be assessed, on the research report “Functioning, reach and effects of School Advisory Services in Flanders“ (2013) from University of Antwerp and KU Leuven, and above all on numerous in-depth conversations with representatives from the educational umbrella organisations and the Flemish Community Education, the involved organisations and their staff, the management team and staff of schools and pupil guidance centres and external experts such as inspectors, researchers and trade unions.

The results of the first evaluation of the School Advisory Services have been presented on 10 February 2014. The commission of experts presented 13 reports: 12 reports on individual organisations and one general report. The documents invite the organisations involved to critically reflect on their own functioning and to take actions for improvement.

Modernisation of secondary education

On 17 January 2014 the Flemish Government approved a scenario for the implementation of the modernisation of secondary education. The scenario offers an overview of all measures contained in the master plan for the reform of secondary education. It elaborates on the content of the various measures as well as the way they will be implemented. A clear timing and state of affairs turns the scenario into a clear step-by-step plan for the implementation of the master plan.

In the framework of the modernisation of secondary education Education Decree XXIII (https://docs.vlaamsparlement.be/docs/stukken/2012-2013/g2066-10.pdf), which was approved by the Flemish Parliament in July 2013, introduced the obligation of pupil traineeships  with a minimum of 18 half days for the third stage of technical and vocational secondary education within full time education. In 2013-2014 a first implementation plan was drafted which listed the study programmes where pupil traineeships became obligatory on 1 September 2014. Together with the education providers and labour market actors mutual commitments will be elaborated for the further implementation of this policy decision.

See also 14.2.3.5. ‘Modernisation of secondary education’ in 2013 and 2015.

Additional information can be found on the website.