Educational Disparities In Belgium: The Language Divide

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Current situation in the Belgian educational system

Belgium decided to give more power to its different cultural communities by allowing each of their distinct cultures to oversee education based on their own beliefs and ideologies. These different communities were divided according to their national language, which was either Dutch, French, or German.  The French speaking community resides in Wallonia, while the Dutch speaker community is in Flanders. In Brussels, the capital of Belgium, both languages are spoken.

Although Belgium is a small country, it is the home of three national languages, and as such, it has integrated languages as part of the educational program from an early age. French speaking schools implement Dutch lessons as from primary school and, similarly, Dutch schools implement French.

Structural differences between the Flemish and Walloon educational systems

While certain aspects of the Flemish and Walloon education systems are similar in nature, their structures differ greatly. The Flemish system resembles the system implemented in the Netherlands. This system is often more test-based. On the other hand, in Wallonia, the system is more closely related to the French system, in which students are tested through centralized exams and written work. Furthermore, when students fail to pass certain classes in Wallonia, they are held back a year. They do this in the hopes that an extra year will help the student understand course materials and to motivate them to work harder. However, the system is very different in Flanders. When students fail certain requirements to continue to the next year, they are forced to follow a less academic track within their educational system. They do this as it is believed to be better for students on a social level.

Disparities in performance results

These differences have led to educational disparities within the population. While the Flemish students are top performers in Europe, the German and French speaking students are average. As a matter of fact, Flemish students outscore students from the French and German communities in all the subjects taught at school.

If you are also very interested in this, you can also read more literature below:

Mieze, M. (2022, May 25). European Commission highlights inequality in Belgian Schools. The Brussels Time. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.brusselstimes.com/228054/european-commission-highlights-inequities-in-belgian-schools

2022 European semester: Country reports. European Commission – European Commission. (2022, May 23). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/2022-european-semester-country-reports_en

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