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Compulsory education

Compulsory education means parents have to make sure their children receive education. The federal government determines the duration of compulsory education for the whole of Belgium.

Beginning and end dates of compulsory education

A child becomes subject to compulsory education on 1 September of the calender year in which they become 5 years old.

Compulsory education lasts for a maximum of twelve entire school years. Compulsory education ends:

  • on the 18th birthday, for pupils becoming 18 years on or before 30 June,
  • on 30 June, for pupils becoming 18 years after that date. These pupils do not have to start a new school year.
  • or as soon as a pupil obtains the diploma of secondary education, even if they are only 16 at that time for example.

As of the age of 15 or 16 years, pupils can do part-time learning and working in order to comply with compulsory education.

Compulsory education does not mean compulsory school attendance

To comply with compulsory education, you have 2 options:

  • You can register your child in a school.
  • You opt for home education. You must notify the Flemish Ministry for Education and Training of this in writing.

Are children with a foreign nationality subject to compulsory education?

All children residing in Belgium are subject to compulsory education from the sixtieth day after their registration in the municipality.

Children without official residence documents also have the right to register in a school. A school does not have the right to refuse them on those grounds.

Can children with limited command of Dutch attend the first year?

Pupils must have followed a minimum number of half days in Dutch-language nursery education during the previous school year before they can attend the first year of Dutch-language primary education. If their attendance did not meet this condition, they have to undergo a language test to prove they have sufficient understanding of Dutch.

This does not mean the compulsory education age is brought down, but in practice there will be children who have to go to school a year earlier.