Written by Marianna ed Elisa

A short introduction to this article is needed. Alos in this case, as per the article about the school system in Germany, I asked support to who has experience.

Elisa and Marianna live in Belgium and they both have children. Also Elisa wrote a paragraph talking specifically about schools for special kids.

The stories of both follow this introduction. I have left their text as they have sent them to me, cutting only the repetions.

Ready to know the writers of today?


My life brought me to live the last 16 years between Rome and Bruxelles and so my kids had the chance to study in Italy and Belgium as well.
Kids in this country are raised giving them responsabilities, indipendence e contact with nature despite the weather.

You can easily see very young kids going to school by bike on their own, or taking transportation , and this is the first clue that this country, and so the school, tries to raise indipendent generations of people.

In Belgium the school system is competence of the French, Flammish and German comunities which are indipendent from each others.

Bruselles is influeced by both french and flamish comunities. It is an indipendent province itself..

In Bruselles all level of schools are in both French and Flamish language and the 2nd language becomes compulsive from the 3rd year of primary school.

The school system is free of charge and it is divided per age:

enseignement maternel (kindergarden, from 2 to 5/6years old – mandatory from 5 years old)
enseignement primaire (primary school, from 6 to 12 years old – mandatory)
enseignement secondaire (secondary school from 12 to18years old – mandatory)
enseignement supérieur (university – optional)
(keep on reading for more details)

During the enseignement primaire and secondaire children have exams every 2 years. This is not stressful for them, since the way the school prepares them with tests and exercise.

Classes take place from Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on the Wednesday till 12 p.m. Anyway schools have also a pre-school and after school service where kids can stay and have a help to study and do the homeworks, this is a great support for parents who work.

Pre and after-school have a price, here some example:

Open air activities and sports are very important in Belgium and so in the schools.

A lot of institution organize swimming courses in the public swimming pools, during gym class at school, teachers train the kids to various sports (martial arts, high jumping, basketball, ping pong, badmonton etc…) in order to help them finding their passion and potential.

Didactic material is mainly given by the school and very often books are not used, instead teachers provide copies to the students at the beginning of the year.

Schools are mainly public, but of course there are also private ones. In Bruselles is possible to go to the European school or the British School, and in Waterloo also to an Italian School.

We have decided to enroll our kids to the Belgian francophone school, to give them the chance to integrate better with the reality were they are growing up,a n they are still happy of this choice.

I have been in Belgium for seven years now, but when I arrived, I was not expected to test myself with the knowledge of the school system of the country that hosts me.

Then things changed, children were born and from there here is my love story with kindergartens and kindergarten (for now).. The school system in Belgium is divided as follows and is the same for the three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Capital Region).

The only thing different is the language. For Wallonia and the Brussels Capital Region we have French, while for Flanders, Flemish (a mix of English and German). As we have seen before there are the various divisions according to the age groups.
So kindergarten, materrna school, primary school, secondary school and high school

Higher education can be of four types:

University teaching
– Long-term education
– Teaching of short duration
– Teaching of social advancement

The types of schools from which parents can choose are divided into Public, Catholic and Private.

Employees of the European Institutions can avail themselves of the right of a European School for their children.

Attention! In Belgium there are no inclusive schools for disabled children.

If parents decide to enrol their disabled child in an ordinary school, they are free to do so, but they know that teachers are not prepared to accommodate children with difficulty (from the smallest to the most severe).
In short you know why?
Because teachers follow short training because they do not need a special qualification to do this job.

How to enroll a child in school and how to choose it?

My criterion of choice was obviously the proximity to casa. I do not deny that I also visited schools slightly further away to make comparisons. Once decided my three favorite I filled out an online form to apply for my son.
After a month or so I received a reply that all three schools had been accepted so I just had to make my final choice and make contact with the school for the formalities. And if I want to do some work out, I simpli pick him up by bike or with a half-hour walk.

How does specialized teaching work?

As for special schools, the process is a little different. The school must first be within a radius of maximum 15 km from home to be able to subsequently request the school bus and must be chosen according to the type of disability of the child. Special schools are divided into 8 groups (mental and physical retardation, visual and auditory deficits, learning disorders and so on).

You might be wondering, why am I talking about special schools?

I’ll tell you about it. My firstborn has a genetic syndrome which, in its specific case, is causing motor and mental retardation.This is why I am so knowledgeable and can share my experience with you.

I said that I made contact through a support person who followed us at the time with the reference schools. We made an appointment to visit the schools and fill out the application form.We were actually aiming for a specific school for its characteristics and its excellent reputation. When I visited that school I immediately understood why it was known and why I knew she’d be the one for my son.

Obviously when I knew that he should attend a specialized institute I did not jump for joy, indeed, it was a very complicated time and I did not want to accept it.

I didn’t want to accept that because of the lack of inclusion I should send him to a “different” school.

But you know what? It took some time but now, I’m convinced that I couldn’t have made a better choice for him.
Because the whole school is special: teachers, therapists, staff, the presence of a mega playground and the farm with many animals, cycling and hiking, volunteers and bus drivers.

The children are followed by more figures and in class there are only 9.
Obviously the criteria of the regular schools dont apply here

At the moment we also have a support service called “Multifunctional Center”.
In short, it means that the child can access a school medical service and if he is ill, he can be visited urgently.
You can request dental visits (always during school time and at the office) for a check-up and to understand if it is necessary to make specific interventions.
You can access the internship service (for those parents who need their child to sleep in the structure).
I can enroll him in summer camps, pre and post-school and other exciting activities.

What do my children’s schools have in common?

In both schools, contact with nature, animals and the external environment is preferred.
With any weather the children play in the open air.
Sun, wind or rain you will always see children playing outside and hiking in the woods is the order of the day.
And, in spring, all by bike to celebrate the most used vehicle (in Flanders at least)!

Does this school system looks like the one of the country where you live or have you noticed differences?

Thanks to Marianna and Elisa for sharing their stories and knowledge.

If you are thinking to move to Belgium, check out the video on You Tube with the top tips.

See you soon