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There are several schooling options available for expat children in Antwerp. The city is home to several reputable international schools as well as a number of good public and private schools. Parents will need to take the fees, language of instruction, and location of any prospective schools into account before deciding on one.
Public education in Belgium is free and is managed at the regional level. Children can start school at two-and-a-half years, but attendance is only compulsory between ages six and 18.
Public schools in Antwerp
Public schools are divided into pre-schools, kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools. Flemish (a regional dialect of Dutch) is the language of instruction and other languages are introduced towards the end of primary school. Children under 12 who do not speak Dutch can attend any primary school, while non-Dutch-speaking children over 12 must attend a school that has additional classes for speakers of foreign languages. These reception classes are focused on intensive Dutch-language learning. The child is fully integrated into all regular classes as soon as possible.
Private schools in Antwerp
There are a number of private schools available in Antwerp. The language of instruction in these schools is usually Flemish. Expats who plan to stay in the city long-term or whose children already speak the local language will find that private schools are a good option. Most private schools in the city are Roman Catholic but do allow for students of different faiths.
International schools in Antwerp
Most expats on short-term assignments in Belgium send their children to an international school. These provide various curricula such as the American, British and International Baccalaureate programmes. The language of instruction is usually English and most give students a choice of French or Dutch classes. International schools are popular among expat parents as the familiar language and curriculum can ease the transition between schools. That said, international schools can be prohibitively expensive, so parents should ensure their budget can cover the tuition.
Special-needs education in Antwerp
Special-needs education in Belgium focuses on inclusion and equality. The government is committed to ensuring each child exercises their right to education. Each language community has a respective Ministry of Education.
The ministry will first attempt to immerse a child into a mainstream school. If this is not possible or suitable, children would then be enrolled in a specialist school. There are various categories of specialist schools in Belgium. Some schools are focused on physical disabilities and others will focus on learning or behavioural difficulties.
Tutors in Antwerp
Whether parents are looking to improve their child's language skills, boost their grades in a problem subject or get assistance in preparing for a big exam, expat families can make good use of the many high-quality tutors in Antwerp. There are numerous large and small companies, as well as independent tutors, who can be hired to help. It can be particularly useful to ask fellow expats and the child's school for recommendations.
►For a list of recommended schools for expats, see International Schools in Antwerp
"School starts early for Belgian kids – a potty-trained three-year-old can expect to go on a daily basis. There is a huge choice in styles too – a school focusing on the medium of music for its classes, Jewish schools (there is a very large Orthodox community), American schools, Steiner schools, Forest schools…" Read more of Nina's expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Antwerp?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Antwerp. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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