Compulsory schooling from 5 from September 2020

A bill to make education in Belgium compulsory from the age of 5 has passed the committee stage in the Chamber of representatives. The members of the Select Committee voted unanimously to lower the age at which education becomes compulsory from 6 to 5 years from the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

The must now pass through a plenary sitting of the Chamber of Representatives before it becomes law.       

Although education in Belgium is the responsibility of the three language communities, setting the ages between which it is compulsory is the responsibility of the federal state. The age at which education become compulsory has been 6 since the 1980’s. However, there have long been calls for this to be lowered.  

The main argument for lowering the age at which education becomes compulsory is that it would serve to address the issue of social inequality. Currently, almost all Flemish 5-year-olds attend nursery school. The vast majority start their schooling in reception classes when they are two and a half. 

Those that don’t are often children of migrants or of people with low levels of academic attainment in the big cities. Those in favour of lowering the age at which education becomes compulsory say that participation in education from a young age is crucial.