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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.10 Current debates and reforms

Last update: 23 December 2021

For information on recently adopted or planned reforms and policy measures, please consult the topic Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments on Eurydice. While Eurydice provides comprehensive and comparable information, further information may also be found on the website of the ministry of Education and Training on the page on education policy and reforms (Onderwijsbeleid en –Vernieuwing) .

Forthcoming policy developments

Modernisation of secondary education

In order to further develop the strong points of the system, to address possible points of improvement and to guarantee quality education for every pupil, a modernisation of secondary education in Flanders is carried out. More specific, the website of the Department of Education and Training mentions 6 reasons for the modernization of secondary education:

  1. Modernization must reduce ELET
  2. Pupils are not equally prepared for higher education or the labor market: the differences between disciplines are too big.
  3. Retention is too often considered the only possibility to differentiate in case of substantial shortages.
  4. The current education system does not succeed in eliminating social inequality, despite the many efforts and investments.
  5. Final terms are insufficiently achieved in certain disciplines. There is also no unanimity about the content of general education.
  6. International research shows that both our best students and the large middle group start to perform significantly less strongly.

On March 28, 2018, the Flemish Parliament plenary adopted the draft decree that establishes the modernization of the organization and the structure of secondary education (Decreet tot wijziging van de Codex Secundair Onderwijs van 17 december 2010, wat betreft de modernisering van de structuur en de organisatie van het secundair onderwijs).

This modernization will gradually be implemented in the Flemish schools. In the first grade (first two years) of secondary education, modernization will start on 1 September 2019. In the first grade of secondary education, basic education will be strengthened and all pupils have to reach a pre-determined level. In addition to basic education, there will be an optional component to enable better orientation for students. Where necessary, a compulsory remedy is provided to strengthen pupils.

In the second and third grade modernization will start respectively on 1 September 2021 and 1 September 2023. The new model comprises 8 study domains and is based on a stepped - and therefore more focused - study choice. The offer is built along a matrix with three dimensions, namely ‘fields of study’, ‘finalities’ and ‘types of education’.  The current 29 study areas will be reduced to 8 fields of study:

  1. Languages and cultures
  2. STEM
  3. Arts and creation
  4. Agriculture and horticulture
  5. Economics and organisation
  6. Society and welfare
  7. Sports
  8. Nutrition and catering

Within these 8 fields of study the courses of study will content wise be arranged from abstract to practical. For each field of study, the finality will be clearly determined: transition to higher education, entrance on the labour market or a combination of both.

New attainment targets first stage secondary education

The Flemish Government approved on 13 July 2018 the new attainment targets for the first grade of secondary education (decreet betreffende de onderwijsdoelen voor de eerste graad van het secundair onderwijs). On 10 February 2021, the Flemish Parliament approved the new educational objectives for the 2nd and 3rd stage of secondary education (decreet betreffende de onderwijsdoelen voor de tweede en derde graad van het secundair onderwijs). The new educational objectives for the 2nd stage take effect in September 2021 and in 1 September 2023 in the third grade.

These new attainment targets are developed in function of 16 key competences:

  1. competencies in the field of physical, mental and emotional awareness and in the field of physical, mental and emotional health;
  2. competencies in Dutch;
  3. competencies in other languages;
  4. digital competence and media literacy;
  5. social-relational competencies;
  6. competences in mathematics, exact sciences and technology;
  7. citizenship competences including competences for living together;
  8. competences relating to historical awareness;
  9. competences relating to spatial awareness;
  10. competencies regarding sustainability;
  11. economic and financial competences;
  12. legal competences;
  13. learning competencies including research competencies, innovation thinking, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, systems thinking, information processing and collaboration;
  14. self-awareness and self-expression, self-management and agility;
  15. development of initiative, ambition, entrepreneurial spirit and career competences;
  16. cultural awareness and cultural expression.

The attainment targets on basic literacy (Dutch, mathematics, digital and financial competences) have to be reached by the end of the first grade by every pupil individually. The distinction between subject-related and cross-curricular final objectives disappears. Students must achieve most objectives at the population level, though there remain attitudinal objectives that will only be pursued. The education providers are free to decide within which subjects they realize the different attainment targets.

Termination of the M-Decree (see 6.6. for more information on the M-Decree)

The implementation of the M-decree encountered a lot of problems, which also threatened to undermine the support for inclusive education. Therefore the Flemish Government stated in the Flemish coalition agreement 2019-2024 to replace the M-decree for students with specific educational needs with a new guidance decree (more information: in Dutch). The current model for supporting pupils with specific educational needs in mainstream education will remain in force until the 2020-2021 school year. In the meantime, a new support model is being prepared that will take effect at the earliest from 1 September 2021.The Flemish Government continues to support the principle of inclusion but wishes to work step by step. The aim of the new decree will be, just as the current M-decree, to take steps towards more social inclusion.