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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.5 Cross-border learning mobility

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Policy framework
  2. Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education
  3. Promoting mobility in the context of non-formal learning, and of youth work
  4. Quality assurance

Policy framework

Under the Belgian constitution (Art. 127-133) the relevant areas of responsibility of the communities – and these also include intercommunity and international relations – are the exclusive competences of these communities. For them, opening the community to the outside is necessary not only from practical considerations but also in addition a central element of their autonomy defined in the constitution and their identity.

Primarily since the 90s, the government has identified opening the German-speaking Community to the outside as an important policy field and also driven it further forward in the last few years. Quite particularly also under the aspect of a Europe of the Regions, as part of their competences, they are reinforcing their efforts to establish or deepen relations with neighbouring communities and regions and with other European countries, to exchange experiences and – not least thanks to the European support programmes – to conduct joint programmes.

Because of its small size, in the area of human and financial resources the German-speaking Community has inherently only limited possibilities for involvement in international organisations and European programmes and initiatives. However, it is active on many levels and, to better coordinate the various activities, in 2002 the Ministry set up a service for external relations.

There are no statutory provisions that deal especially only with the European dimension in the education and training system of the German-speaking Community. However, it should be noted here that the decree of 31 August 1998 on the mandate to the school boards and school staff and on the general pedagogical and organisational provisions for regular and special schools (Dekret vom 31. August 1998 über den Auftrag an die Schulträger und das Schulpersonal sowie über die allgemeinen pädagogischen und organisatorischen Bestimmungen für die Regel- und Förderschulen) states in Article 10:

School shall teach cosmopolitanism and promote the European ideal and multilingualism.

As a constituent part of the federal state of Belgium, the German-speaking Community has considerable autonomy in the area of external relations which even allows it to make international treaties in its areas of responsibility. It maintains numerous international contacts with neighbouring states, partner regions and international organisations, central importance always being attached to education and training.

Mobility and exchange measures are mainly found among pupils and students and to a much lesser extent among teachers.

Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education

Mobility of pupils and students

Erasmus+: With its programme Erasmus+ (2021-2027) in which the German-speaking Community is also involved, the EU wants to improve the skill level and employability of young people and modernise education and youth work. Erasmus+ promotes cross-border partnerships and brings together the predecessor programmes Lifelong Learning (2007-2013) with Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo Da Vinci and Grundtvig under one umbrella. Pupil mobility likewise includes the mobility of trainees from vocational education. The National Agency for Erasmus+ in the German-speaking Community of Belgium is the Youth Office (Jugendbüro). Students can have the opportunity of a study visit to another country; in addition graduates can go abroad for an internship for up to a year after the completion of their degree.

European Solidarity Corps: The European Solidarity Corps (2021-2027) is also being implemented by the Youth Office as the responsible National Agency for the German-speaking Community. It mainly involves volunteering possibilities and solidarity projects.

Erasmus Belgica: Since 2004 the programme Erasmus Belgica has offered students the opportunity to complete an internship or a study visit within Belgium. Erasmus Belgica is a partnership project of the Flemish, French and German-speaking Communities. The internship or study visits have a minimum duration of three months and a maximum duration of twelve months. Every participating student receives a lump sum of 100€ and there is a monthly lump sum of 100€ for those who can prove they have had subsistence costs in the other Community.

eTwinning: Alongside the pupil exchange and the school partnerships, via the eTwinning project an international exchange may also be possible: eTwinning pursues the aim of promoting European school partnerships by using modern communication and information technology (ICT). From the academic year 2014-2015 eTwinning partnership projects can also be carried out within Belgium. Also projects between schools from the German-speaking Community have been possible since 2014. 

Prince Philippe Fund: In cooperation with the education ministries of the three communities of Belgium the Prince Philippe Fund organises exchange and cooperation projects between pupils, schools and teaching staff. With the project "Building Sustainable Bridges" the Prince Philippe Fund would like to promote structural cooperation between organisations and/or establishments from different communities of Belgium and an open attitude towards the other communities. The Prince Philippe Fund wants to promote joint initiatives and exchange between Dutch, French and German-speaking establishments and organisations beyond language boundaries. There may be the following options: exchange of ideas and/or persons, starting a dialogue, increasing mutual understanding, carrying out campaigns, linking objectives. 

Bilateral initiatives and programmes

The German-speaking Community maintains bilateral relations both at national level (with the other communities and regions of the country) and at international level (with states or regions). In the relations with some states the German-speaking Community joins in with various international cultural agreements which the state of Belgium made in the 50s and which through the state reform have fallen into the area of competence of the communities.

These bilateral relations mostly lead to agreements on future cooperation that, depending on the legal possibility of the partner, take the form of a joint declaration or a cooperation agreement.

In most bilateral declarations or agreements the areas of education and training play a central role.

Multilateral initiative and programmes

Through the multilateral relations maintained by the German-speaking Community, many people who have responsibility in the areas of policy, administration, education and training can attend conferences and congresses where current topics and trends are discussed and debated. Not least in the areas of education and training, which are some of the most important areas of competence of the communities, such contacts at European level are very enriching and to be reflected in their own legislative activity. 

Alongside their membership and active participation in international committees such as the "Assembly of European Regions", the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, the Greater Region Saar-Lor-Lux where among other things also education and training-relevant topics are discussed and occasionally cross-border projects encouraged, the German-speaking Community maintains also the following multilateral international relations:

  • Ongoing contact with the European Minister Councils; including active participation in the events on the occasion of the Belgian presidency in 2001;
  • Representation in the Education Committee of the European Commission; Youth Committee;
  • Participation in community action programmes (e.g. Eurydice)
  • Attendance at minister conferences of the European Council (education; sport; youth) and participation in the Pestalozzi education programme
  • OECD: participation in PISA studies; participation in the PEB programme on the developments in the school building programme;
  • Participation in the PIRLS study (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study)
  • Introduction of the EUROPASS

Other initiatives and programmes

Immersion language exchange project (every year from 2004): this bilateral exchange project has now been in existence for some years and takes 12-year-old pupils from the French Community who would like to "experience" the German language, into the German-speaking Community and pupils from the German-speaking Community who would like to "experience" the French language into the French Community. These language immersion programmes consist of two-week visits and take place at the end of the school holidays in one school and one residential school; there the young people receive educational support from 9:00 to 16:30.

Promoting mobility in the context of non-formal learning, and of youth work

The Youth Office supports mobility of young people and experts in the socio-cultural field and it promotes national and international cooperation in the youth sector. Consequently the Youth Office serves as the National Agency for the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programme and as the agency for the national programme Bel’J.

The Youth Information (Jugendinfo) is sending organization for the Volunteering service of the European Solidarity Corps.

Quality assurance

There are no specific quality assurance measures on cross-border learning mobility in the German-speaking Community, although most of the programmes (Erasmus+, Bel-J,...) are being regularly monitored and evaluated.