Finding the Right School

General information on school admissions policies, waiting lists and educational approaches in schools in Belgium...

The regional ministries of education have websites listing the schools in their area. However, not all this information is available in English. Embassies can help with details of state run and private schools as can local municipal offices.

US (and non-US) citizens can get lots of useful information on schools and general life in Belgium by consulting the United States Embassy in Brussels. There are reviews of many of the international schools on their site as well as some information on selected state run and subsidised private schools.

Anyone intending to be in Belgium longer than three months must register with their local Town Hall (Maison Communale/Stadhuis) within eight days of arrival. Information about school age children will be required at this time. The town hall can provide contact details for local schools and may be able to offer useful additional information.

As well as the different types of school, there is a lot of variety in the style of approach – from very liberal to very traditional – from school to school. Some communes have a specialised advisory service or can put parents in touch with a local Psycho-Medical-Social (PMS) centre, for advice about choice of school and specialised needs.

Some schools have waiting lists and some have a first-come, first-served registration date. Waiting lists are common, but as there are so many different types of school, they do not always reflect the quality of education on offer for a particular child.

Schools within the Belgian system will teach primarily in the language of the local community, for example Dutch in Flanders. In Brussels, municipalities operate principally in either Dutch or French depending on the majority local language, but there is always a school in the minority language, for example a French-speaking commune will also provide a Dutch-speaking school.

State schools are open to all and places are usually allocated based on geographical area. However, Belgium has a strong principle of freedom of choice of school and, depending on availability of places, parents are free to choose any school within reasonable travelling distance.

For the privately run schools entry may be conditional upon the ability to speak and understand the main teaching language. Schools are sometimes reluctant to admit new pupils in the course of an academic year.

Private schools set their own admissions policies and, for the international schools especially, entry procedures usually involve an interview and sometimes an examination. Consult the individual school for details of admission policy and fees.