Sunday, April 7, 2013

Education in Belgium

Education in Belgium is regulated and for the larger part financed by one of the three official communities : Flemish, French and German speaking. The national government plays a very small role: it decides directly the age for mandatory schooling and indirectly the financing of the communities.

The schools can be divided in three groups :
  1. Schools owned by the communities
  2. Subsidized public schools organized by provinces and municipalities
  3. Subsidized free schools mainly organized by an organization affiliated to the catholic church
Education in Belgium is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 18.

Cost of higher education in Belgium

In contradiction to the US, depending on whether the student is eligible and applies for financial aid, there are three prices. The financial aid in Belgium is not at all based on the student's results or sports achievements (as it is in the US), but related to the student’s family financial income. However, students who fail too many classes can lose their financial aid.

These are the three different prices:

A student who is receiving financial aid. In Dutch-speaking institutions, their tuition fee is between €80 ($64) and €100 ($80).
Almost-bursary student 
A student who is not eligible for financial aid but has a family income below €1286.09 ($1,020) per month. In Dutch-speaking institutions, their tuition fee is between €333.60 ($266.88) and €378.60 ($303).
Non-bursary student 
Anyone not eligible for financial aid with an income above €1286.09 ($1,029) per month. In Dutch-speaking institutions their tuition fee is between €500.40 ($400.32) and €597 ($477.60),  and in French-speaking institutions, around €830 ($664).

The financial aid awarded by the community governments depends on the income of the student's family, and other familial circumstances, but is never more than approximately €3,300 per year ($2,640). So compared to the US, higher education is very cheap even if you have no financial aid.

This also means that lower income families not only have the possibility to send their kids to college, they are even financially helped by the Belgian government.

In the US most students need to get a student loan, or their family need to spend all their savings to be able to pay for higher education. This phenomenon is absolutely not known in Belgium.

Education for children from 6 to 18 years old (age for mandatory schooling) is as good as free. Schools get financial aid from the government, more than $250 per student per year. The government also pays for a lot of school materials like pen and paper, agendas, books, PC's, calculators, etc. There is also a maximum amount per month that can be invoiced to the parents for other expenses like school outings.

Opponents might say that allowing everyone to benefit from (almost) free education would decrease the level of education. Nothing is less true. The United Nations Education Index, which is measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment  ratio, ranks Belgium on the 19th place in the world as of 2012, the US on the 25th place.

World map indicating Education Index based on the 2009 UN HDR
  0.950 and over
  under 0.350
  not available

On top of that Pascal Smet said that we can be proud of our higher education system which combines an extra ordinary quality with an easy accessability. “The Flemish government did a lot of effort to keep and to strengthen this” (thanks to the financial support of the Flemish Government) says Mr. Smet.

I totally agree if you want education to be accessible for everybody, that the government needs to take their responsibility and invest in making education ass affordable as possible. Even for families with a low income. Education is a right, and is not only for people who can effort it.

"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) Thirty-fifht President of the USA

Resources: N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>.

Kennedy, John F. proverbia. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <>.

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