- Download our Moving to Brussels Guide (PDF)
Education and schools in Brussels are governed by the Belgian education system, which offers a wide array of choices for expat children. Most expat parents will enrol their children in either a public school or one of several international schools in the city. The quality of education in Belgium, whether private or public, is generally excellent.
It's common for children to start going to 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.
See Education and Schools in Belgium for more on the national education system.
Public schools in Brussels
Public education in Brussels is known to be of a high standard. Expats can find schools that offer tuition in French or Dutch. Public schools are an good option for expat families who already speak a local language or want 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
International schools in Brussels cater to the city's status as a nucleus of international activity, providing expat families with a diverse range of options. Some of these schools follow the British curriculum, while others adhere to 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 apply far in advance to get the best chance at placing their child at the 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.
Read more about International Schools in Brussels.
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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