Belgium is a federal state divided in three communities and three regions. Each entity is responsible for various competences. In Belgium the three Communities are responsible for education, with the exception of three competences, which remained a federal matter:
- the determination of the end and the beginning of compulsory school attendance,
- the minimum requirements for the issuing of diplomas,
- the regularisation of retirement for the employees in the educational system.
Instruction in each community is provided in the language of the community in question.
In the German-speaking Community, the Ministry of Education is responsible for all stages of education starting from pre-primary education. Childcare is a competence of the German-speaking Ministry of Family, Health Care and Social affairs.
Education is either organised by the German-speaking Community or subsidised by it (grant-aided public education and denominational or non-denominational grant-aided independent education).
The education system in the German-speaking Community of Belgium is divided into three school networks:
- Community education system: is the official education organised and financed by the German-speaking Community.
- Government-aided public education: which is organised by municipal authorities and subsidised by the German-speaking Community.
- Government-aided private education: which is organised by grant-aided private bodies and subsidised by the Germqn-speaking Community.
For the last two networks (education only financed by the German-speaking Community), controlling authorities enjoy fairly extensive autonomy, particularly with regard to methods of education and assessment. With the condition that they comply with laws, decrees and orders.
In Belgium, besides mainstream education there also exits special needs (pre)primary and secondary education. Special needs education is organized for children who need temporary or permanent specific support because of a physical or mental disability, serious behavioural or emotional problems or severe learning disabilities.
In Belgium, when a pupil is 15 or 16 years old (s)he may enter a system of alternating learning and working. All youngsters in part-time education are obliged to take part in learning and working for at least 28 hours a week. Part-time learning and working is organized in: - an institution for part-time education ; - a centre for apprenticeships.