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Under the Belgian education system, expat children will be able to attend many different types of schools in Brussels. Most expat parents will either enrol their children in a public school or one of several international schools in the city. The quality of education in Belgium, be it private or public, is generally excellent.
Children generally start school at age two and a half, although it isn't mandatory until age six. Before this age, most neighbourhoods offer daycare solutions for working parents. Compulsory schooling ends at age 18.
Public schools in Brussels
Public education in Brussels is known to be of an excellent standard. Expats will be able to find schools that offer tuition in French or Dutch. Public schools are an excellent option for expat families who already speak a local language or are looking to immerse their younger children in the local language and culture. That said, most expats who are planning to live in Brussels for a shorter period and can't speak the local language will opt to send their children to one of the city’s many excellent international schools.
Private schools in Brussels
There are several private schools in Brussels. These are generally religious institutions that are subsidised to some degree by the Belgian government or schools with alternative curricula such as the Montessori curriculum.
The city’s private schools are usually slightly more affordable than its international schools. These schools also offer a wider selection of extra-curricular activities and school outings than public schools.
International schools in Brussels
Brussels is a nucleus of international activity and expat families will find themselves with a healthy choice of international school options. Some international schools teach an English curriculum, while others follow the national curricula of countries such as France, the Netherlands or Germany.
With a large expat community in Brussels, space at international schools can be difficult to secure. Parents should, therefore, apply far in advance to place their child at their preferred school. It's also worth mentioning that international school fees are typically high, so it's important to ensure there is adequate budget for not only tuition but also extras such as uniforms, textbooks, school lunches and extra-curriculars.
Special-needs education in Brussels
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 Brussels
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 Brussels. 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 recommendations, see International Schools in Brussels
"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 Brussels?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Brussels. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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