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Main actors at central level
The Flemish Community is in charge of most matters of education, although the Federal State is still responsible for a number of matters, e.g.:
- the beginning and end of compulsory education,
- the subdivision into different levels of education,
- the minimum diploma requirements
- the pension scheme,
- language supervision in the schools located in the Brussels region.
Within the Flemish Government, the Minister for Education is responsible for the education policy (for the current legislature 2019-2024 this is Ben Weyts). At the beginning of a new legislative term the Flemish Minister of Education formulates the key objectives for education in a policy paper, which is presented to the Flemish Parliament. The most recent Policy Paper on Education is the one for the legislature period 2019-2024 (Beleidsnota Onderwijs 2019-2024).
Within the Ministry of the Flemish Community, The Flemish education administration implements ministerial decisions. The Flemish education administration consists of 5 autonomous organisations:
- Department of Education and Training (Departement Onderwijs en Vorming), in charge of policy support and development. The Department of Education and Training comprises several divisions that each provide specific services, including the coordination of the Education and Training policy area, communication, strategic policy support, policy preparation and evaluation, etc.
- And 3 agencies and the Inspectorate, each in charge of policy implementation:
- Agency for Educational Services (Agentschap voor Onderwijsdiensten, AGODI) is responsible for the implementation of the education policy of primary and secondary education, the centres for part-time education, part-time art education, the centres for student counselling and the inspection and pedagogical guidance.
- Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Study (Agentschap voor Hoger Onderwijs, Volwassenenonderwijs, Kwalificaties en Studietoelagen - AHOVOKS), is responsible for the institutions, teacher staff, and students following higher education or adult education; the development of final goals and qualifications, and services to citizens (e.g. study allowances).
- Agency for School Infrastructure (Agentschap voor Infrastructuur in het Onderwijs - AGION) is responsible for subsidizing the purchase, the construction and the renovation of school buildings.
- The Inspectorate (Onderwijsinspectie) monitors the quality of education for the following school levels: elementary, secondary and part-time arts education, secondary adult education and adult basic education. It is not competent for higher education. The Inspectorate performs the following tasks:
- advising the accreditation of new institutions,
- carries out full inspections of the educational institutions
- tasks regarding the quality of education (e.g. controls, advise and research) that were assigned by decree or decision of the Flemish Government:
The Flemish Education Council (VLOR) functions as a strategic advisory council. All preliminary draft decrees should be submitted for the formal opinion of VLOR (more information can be found in Eurydice).
Further information is available in the article Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level in the Eurydice national description for Flanders.
Organising bodies and educational networks
The constitutional principle of freedom of education is central to Belgian educational legislation (School Pact Act of 29 May 1959, art. 2). It gives every natural person or legal person the right to establish schools (the 'organising bodies' or, in elementary education, the 'school boards') and to organise and based them on confessional or non-confessional principles or on specific pedagogical or educational ideas . On the condition that a minimum timetable is respected and the curriculum is approved, the school may either be financed or subsidised. The organising bodies are responsible for the recruitment and appointment of staff and receive financial resources from the government.
To qualify for subsidisation/funding, schools must accept the educational structure imposed by decree, follow a curriculum that recognisably contains the attainment targets and development goals, submit to the supervision of the educational inspectorate, participate in an LCP (local consultation platform), adhere to the principles of participatory decision-making imposed by decree and apply a complete smoking ban.
The organising bodies can transfer some of their responsibilities to educational networks, a representative association of organising bodies. In Flanders there are three educational networks. The school boards of an educational network may join an umbrella organisation. These umbrella organisations represent the school boards in government consultations and offers services to their schools such as drafting the curricula and timetables.
- GO! Education (GO! Onderwijs), is publicly run education organised by the public body called ‘het GO! Onderwijs van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap’ acting under the authority of the Flemish Community. Under the constitution, this GO! education is required to be neutral.
- Subsidised private education (catholic education, protestant education, Jewish education, non-confessional education, independent method schools) consists for the largest part of subsidized private Catholic education.
- Subsidised official education includes municipal education (organized by the municipal authorities) and provincial education organized by the provincial authorities). The school boards are united in two umbrella organisations:
A small number of schools are not recognised by the government. These private schools do not receive funding from the government.
There are a number of federal competences which confine Education and Training Policy. The most important of these are the regulation of access to certain professions, employee statuses that apply to on-the-job learning and paid educational leave. For a number of policy options, including truancy policy and monitoring school attendance, cooperation is required with Federal Government services, such as justice, and the other communities.
There is also cooperation with several other Flemish policy areas with protocol agreements being concluded between the competent ministers, including:
- the policy area of Work and Social Economy for the implementation of the qualification structure (kwalificatiestructuur) and competence agenda (competentie- en loopbaanbeleid),
- the policy area Welfare, Public Health and Family for the medical examinations in the pupil guidance centres,
- the policy area of Culture, Youth, and Media, in relation to Arts and Cultural Education, Previously Acquired Competences and Community Schools (brede scholen). ACCE (Ambtelijke Coördinatie CultuurEducatie), the consultation platform of the officials within the Department Culture, Youth and Media who are involved in the theme cultural education and CANON Culture Cell (CANON Cultuurcel) of the Department of Education and Training actively network from a shared policy vision and sensitize in both sectors and at various policy levels,
- the policy area Mobility and Public Works for public transport of pupils