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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.6 Social inclusion through education and training

Last update: 31 December 2023

Educational support

Policy measures to create equal learning opportunities in Flanders can be grouped at support that is provided at (1) the collective level (e.g., to schools) and (2) the individual level. Regarding the latter pupils with special needs can be supported (2a) within mainstream education and in different forms of (2b) special needs education. Support is provided at all levels of education. A very detailed description of all measures is provided on the Eurydice page. 

Support provided at the collective level

The Decree on Equal Educational Opportunities (Decreet Gelijke OnderwijsKansen - GOK-beleid) in education which was renewed in 2021 contains three major provisions: 

  • The right to enrolment: Each pupil has the right to enrol in the school of his/her (parents’) choice, Also foreign-language newcomers and pupils with a report for access to special education. 
  • Legal protection
    • Extra support for additional needs provision in schools: This support is aimed at schools that have a rather large number of pupils who meet certain socio-economic indicators. This extra support consists of additional teaching periods or additional teaching hours per teacher.

 In mainstream primary and secondary education, additional teacher hours are granted on the basis of the following five indicators:

  • Student's home language
  • Receiving a school allowance
  • Highest level of education of the mother
  • The pupil is temporarily or permanently taken out of his own family
  • The parents belong to the migrant population

A pupil meeting at least one out of five equal opportunities indicators is a GOK-pupil. The school may obtain extra funds for these pupils (expressed in terms of teaching staff, and SES lesson time and working budget). These funds are aimed to provide extra learning opportunities for underprivileged students. Schools have a certain autonomy regarding the way they use this funding. More detailed information on regulations can be on the section on equal opportunities in education of the Agency of Educational Services (Gelijke onderwijskansen). 

For tuition, counselling and school career support, many initiatives are taken, with the Centres for Pupil Guidance playing a central role. 

Support for individual pupils and which target specific needs

Measures within mainstream education

In order to support pupils with disabilities, pupils with developmental problems, learning problems or who have socio-emotional problems, various systems have been developed within mainstream education:

  • Extra special needs hours, special educational resources and support from sign language interpreters;
  • Integrated education with support from special education;
  • Inclusive education for pupils with a moderate or serious intellectual disability.

A comprehensive overview of all measures can be found here.

Special needs education

For specific groups of pupils education is provided outside mainstream education:

  • Learners affected by physical or cognitive disabilities: pupils whose overall personality development cannot be ensured at all or sufficiently, whether on a temporary or permanent basis receive special needs education in separate schools.
  • To facilitate the integration of non-Dutch-speaking newcomers in mainstream education, schools can provide reception education (OKAN). OKAN-pupils in secondary education receive Dutch language lessons for one year. Afterwards they get guidance in further education. In response to the war in Ukraine additional support is provided for refugees from Ukraine.
  • Ill or physically weak pupil scan attend education in hospital schools and preventoria, in children’s and young people’s psychiatric services or via temporary (TEAH) or permanent education at home (PEAH). Bednet, for example, offers remote education for children and young people who are temporarily unable to go to school. The lessons that take place in their class are streamed live to their home computer or tablet. Pupils who are absent for a prolonged or regular period due to illness, surgery, accident or pregnancy can join the lesson and stay in touch with their friends. Bednet is free for families and the schools who want to use this service. 
  • For children of fairground entertainers and vendors, a travelling nursery class follows the route of the main fairs.

See Eurydice (section 12) for more information on these initiatives. 

Social cohesion and equal opportunities

To promote social cohesion and combat the phenomena that threatens it (such as discrimination), Flanders has developed a series of strategies. Again, these can be classified depending on whether they (1) target all pupils or (2) rather focus on specific problems or groups. Examples of (1) are citizenship education that is provided as a cross-curricular theme. Examples of (2) are initiatives that focus on the promotion of gender inequality, programs that aim to combat bullying and radicalisation. 

Fighting discrimination Cross-curricular themes in Education

Fighting discrimination and developing a positive attitude towards diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. is included in the citizenship competences for pupils in the first grade of secondary education and in the cross-curricular objectives concerning the socio-cultural society for pupils in the second and third grade of secondary education (in Dutch: onderwijsdoelen, see also chapter 5.7 for more information). The cross-curricular objectives for the second and third grade entail an obligation of effort for the schools, not for the pupils. The citizenship competences for the first grade are minimum objectives, meaning: a minimum of knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes that are considered achievable and necessary for a certain student population. Every school has the social task to achieve these at the population level of the pupils. An exception to this are a number of attitudinal goals; just as in 2nd and 3rd grade, these attitudinal goals entail an obligation of effort for the schools. The effective attainment of these goals is not tested at the individual level.

Gender equality

Gender in the class (gender in de klas) is an initiative by RoSa (Centre of Expertise, Library and Archives for Gender Equality and Feminism - Kenniscentrum voor Gender en Feminisme; see also Genderklik) and is a website with practical tips for teachers who wish to teach and bring gender consciousness to pupils. 

Anti-bullying programmes

To raise general awareness about the causes and consequences of bullying every school year a ‘Week against bullying is organized’ is organized.

When a pupil is encountered with violence, bullying or sexually transgressive behavior at school, different steps can be undertaken:

  • Inside the school by contacting a teacher, the principal or a coordinator or guidance. 
  • Contacting a Centre for Pupils Guidance (Centrum voor Leerlingenbegeleiding/ CLB) where different specialist work like social workers, psychologists and pedagogues. 
  • External organisations like ‘Awel’, which is a free helpline where children and young people can anonymously tell their story. This is also possible at the JAC’s (Youth Advice Centres - Jongeren AdviesCentra) who give practical tips, advice and information. Some centres provide courses to become more assertive.

More information on bullying and anti-bullying programmes can be found on the website of the Department of Education and Training and on the website Everything about Bullying (Alles over Pesten).

Fighting radicalization (including conspiracy thinking)

Further actions have been implemented to counter radicalization in accordance with the Concept note on the prevention of radicalization processes (Conceptnota over preventie van radicaliseringsprocessen). That note was followed by a concrete action plan that the Flemish Government adopted on April 3, 2015. At the beginning of 2017, a profound revision and update of the action plan was prompted by, among other things, a changed policy context, new insights and changed threat. This resulted on 2 June 2017 in the updating of the existing action plan to the 'Flemish Action Plan for the prevention of violent radicalization and polarization' (Actieplan ter preventie van gewelddadige radicalisering en polarisering). The updated action plan will be reported semi-annually to the Flemish Parliament on progress and implementation. The most recent report (December 2018, in Dutch) can be downloaded here

In line with the Action Plan several actions were taken and tools were developed to support primary workers which are confronted with radicalization. Some examples for the school context are:

  • The Department of Education and Training developed several guidelines and a series of initiatives for the prevention and approach of radicalization and polarization (a complete overview of all actions can be found here). These guidelines and the associated initiatives provide tools that can schools help to deal with radicalization and polarization, and to shape or adjust deradicalization policies.
  • The Education magazine ‘Klasse’ published several online articles. In cooperation with experts, Klasse also created an online dossier on radicalization with interpretation and testimonials from teachers and fellow pupils. In addition, the dossier also contains practical tips on signal recognition, approach and prevention. 
  • The CONNECT-project of Arktos was funded. This project aims to deploy expertise quickly and efficiently in schools (in Flanders and Brussels) where a concentration of young people with extreme risk behavior exceeds the strength and resilience of the teachers team and the schools.
  • The educational resources website KlasCement has collected teaching materials and educational material on the subject of radicalization. Teachers can source from these to inspire each other and share materials for pupils of all ages.
  • Since 1 October 2015, a network of Islam experts (Netwerk Islamexperten) has been set up to launch a counter discourse. Through a network of experienced Islam experts who have a thorough knowledge of Islamic theology and are also familiar with the lifeworld of young people, interpretation on Islam and Islamic norms and values is given to young people, student groups and front-line workers.

More projects and actions can be found on the website of the Department of Education and Training (Hulp en leermiddelen bij radicalisering) and in the semi-annual report (Actieplan  ter preventie van gewelddadige radicalisering en polarisering. Tussentijdse rapportage, December 2018)