The Kingdom of Belgium is located in Western Europe, bordering the North Sea. It shares borders with France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It is about the size of Maryland and, with a population of slightly more than 10 million people,
is one of the most densely populated countries of Europe. The capital of Belgium is Brussels.
On October 4, 1830, Belgium declared its independence from the Netherlands. It is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch. As a result of a 1993 constitutional revision, there are three levels of government (federal, regional
and linguistic community) with a complex division of responsibilities. The official languages of Belgium are Dutch (60%), French (40%) and German (less than 1%).
Education in Belgium falls under the authority of the linguistic communities—Dutch, French and German. Dutch and French are the predominant languages of instruction. Thus, much of the power over educational policies and their implementation
lies with the Cultural Council of the Flemish (Dutch) community and the Cultural Council of the French community.
The Belgian Constitution grants the right of education to everyone. To promote this right, education in Belgium is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 18 years of age. This compulsory education is free of charge. The communities provide pre-school
(nursery school), primary school, secondary schools and technical schools. Vocational and technical education begin at the secondary education level, as does art education.
Although the educational system is divided by language, there are some shared requirements. A law passed on 20 January 1981 listed several subjects that are compulsory during primary education. And, since 1989, the core curriculum is very important
at the secondary education level. Access to tertiary education is available to anyone who has completed secondary education.
Tertiary education—university education and non-university higher education—in Belgium is the responsibility of the Flemish and French communities. Each community has its own Ministry of Education; please see the Belgium Resource page for further information on the individual ministries. Even so, the traditional structures of tertiary education are similar, with the same degrees/diplomas
being awarded by both systems. Now, however, with the introduction of the Bologna Process, this is changing.
The Flemish Parliament passed The Act on the Structure of Higher Education in the Flemish Community on 4 April 2003. This piece of legislation started the process to reform the Flemish higher education system. The old and the new structures will
co-exist, with the old structure being gradually phased out by 2011. In March of 2004, the French community adopted a law that re-organizes the higher education system to make it compatible with the European Higher Education Area. The application
of the new structure was scheduled to begin in September 2004, with the old structure being phased out by the academic year 2007-2008.