Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.10 Current debates and reforms

Last update: 31 December 2023

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:

  • Modernization must reduce ELET
  • Pupils are not equally prepared for higher education or the labor market: the differences between disciplines are too big.
  • Retention is too often considered the only possibility to differentiate in case of substantial shortages.
  • The current education system does not succeed in eliminating social inequality, despite the many efforts and investments.
  • Final terms are insufficiently achieved in certain disciplines. There is also no unanimity about the content of general education.
  • 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 started 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’.  After the modernization there are   8 fields of study:

  • Languages and cultures
  • STEM
  • Arts and creation
  • Agriculture and horticulture
  • Economics and organisation
  • Society and welfare
  • Sports
  • Nutrition and catering

Within these 8 fields of study the courses of study are content wise 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 in 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). The attainment targets for upper secondary educationwere implemented on 1 September 2021 in the second grade of secondary education and on 1 September 2023 in the third grade.

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

  • competencies in the field of physical, mental and emotional awareness and in the field of physical, mental and emotional health;
  • competencies in Dutch;
  • competencies in other languages;
  • digital competence and media literacy;
  • social-relational competencies;
  • competences in mathematics, exact sciences and technology;
  • citizenship competences including competences for living together;
  • competences relating to historical awareness;
  • competences relating to spatial awareness;
  • competencies regarding sustainability;
  • economic and financial competences;
  • legal competences;
  • learning competencies including research competencies, innovation thinking, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, systems thinking, information processing and collaboration;
  • self-awareness and self-expression, self-management and agility;
  • development of initiative, ambition, entrepreneurial spirit and career competences;
  • 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. 

The development and implementation of Flemish tests for Mathematics and Dutch

Informed by decreasing test scores on international tests (e.g., PISA, PIRLS, TIMSS) and the own national assessments (Peilingsproeven), the Minister of Education decided in 2020 that Flemish tests should be developed that help to strengthen the quality of education in Flanders. 

Flemish tests are standardized, normed and validated digital tests about Dutch and Mathematics. They are designed centrally by a support centre. The tests are development-oriented and aim to support teachers and schools in providing powerful education for all students. The first round of tests will be taken place in spring 2024. In principle (there are some exceptions), participation is mandatory for all pupils from primary and secondary education. Each pupils will do the test 4 times during his/her educational career:

  • primary education: 4th and 6th grade
  • secondary education: 2nd and 6th grade

The main difference between the Flemish tests and the Peilingsproeven, is that all pupils will have to take the Flemish tests (Peilingsproeven were based on samples of pupils) and Flemish tests only focus on Mathematics and Dutch (peilingsproeven  focused on all final educational attainment goals).

Besides the Flemish tests, Leerpunt was installed in 2022. Leerpunt is an independent knowledge center that translates and disseminates valuable insights from science and effective teaching methods to the classroom. The knowledge center was given the following tasks:

  • Identification of knowledge needs
  • Creating knowledge through access and synthesis of relevant existing (inter)national scientifically based knowledge and materials for educational practice, and contextualization to Flemish education.
  • Communication and dissemination: development of a communication and mobilization strategy through which the Leerpunt effectively reaches the intended target groups.
  • Scientific support for the use of research in classroom and school practice, in collaboration with pedagogical guidance services (PBDs), teacher training courses and existing expertise centers.