Secondary education

Full-time secondary education ('voltijds secundair onderwijs' or 'secundair onderwijs') caters for youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18 years. Secondary education comprises 6 grades (3 stages of 2 grades each). In Brussels, there are more then 40 Dutch-language schools offering secondary education.
Schema structuur secundair onderwijs

The structure of secondary education

Secondary education comprises three stages:

  • The first stage: 1st and 2nd grade
  • The second stage: 3rd and 4th grade
  • The third stage: 5th, 6th and 7th grade

During the first stage, pupils follow the core curriculum. In the A stream, all pupils are more or less taught the same subjects. The B stream caters for academically weaker pupils, for pupils who would be fazed by a purely theoretical curriculum and for pupils who have made a conscious decision that they wish to follow vocational education. 

Come the second stage, pupils can decide which course of study they wish to follow: ASO, TSO, KSO or BSO

  • In general secondary education ('algemeen secundair onderwijs' - ASO) pupils receive a broad general education. ASO is a sound basis for anyone wishing to pursue higher education.
  • In technical secondary education ('technisch secundair onderwijs' - TSO) pupils receive a general education and are taught a number of technical-theoretical subjects. After TSO, pupils can either practise a trade or follow higher education.
  • In secondary arts education ('kunstsecundair onderwijs' - KSO) pupils are given a broad general education and can actively emerge themselves in art. After KSO, pupils can either practise a trade or go on to higher education.
  • In vocational secondary education ('beroepssecundair onderwijs' - BSO) pupils get a lot of practical lessons. They learn a specific vocation and are also given a general education.

Various courses of study are available within each of these branches of education. Come the age of 15, pupils also have the option of signing up for alternance training with a CLW (Learning and Working Centre).

ASO courses mainly focus on theory. In BSO and the CLWs, youngsters are taught an actual trade. In TSO, theory and practice go hand in hand, while, in KSO, artistic expression is focus of attention.

In the second and third stages, pupils still follow a number of common subjects, irrespective of their course of study. Come the 3rd grade, the various courses of study start concentrating on subjects that are specific to the course of study pupils have chosen. Se-n-Se (advanced secondary education) in TSO and KSO (7th grade secundair-na-secundair (advanced secondary education)), the preparatory years for higher education in ASO and KSO and the seventh specialisation years BSO also form part of the third stage.

It is especially important that pupils choose a course of study that suits their capabilities and interests.

Diploma of secondary education

Pupils obtain their diploma of secondary education once they have successfully completed 6th grade ASO, KSO, TSO or a 7th year BSO. This diploma gives them access to higher education.


A Tienerschool is a new schoolconcept for teenagers. Pupils would follow 4 years of primary education, followed by 4 years of 'Tienerschool' and 4 years of secondary education. More information about the new 'Tienerscholen' in Brussels can be found on

Further information

Check the scholengids (school guide), contact the CLB (pupil guidance centre) or visit (site in Dutch)

Finding a school or course of study