Secondary education

The secondary education system

After primary school, your child will start secondary school, which is subdivided into: 3 stages

  • first grade (1st and 2nd year)
  • second grade (3th and 4th year)
  • third grade (5th and 6th year, 7th year Se-n-Se, spécialisation of preparatory year)

Study programmes

The first grade offers your child a general basic education. Most students start in 1A, while 1B is for students who learn better by doing or have a learning deficit. As of second grade, your child will get to select a specific study programme.

3 key objectives

Each study programme has a key objective (finaliteit) and determines which opportunities will be open to your child after secondary school. There are three key objectives:

  • Job market (start work immediately = practical)
  • Advancement (further study in higher education = theoretical)
  • Dual outcome (start work or further studies)

4 education categories

  • aso - general secondary education – advancement oriented; this type of education is more theoretical and prepares your child for higher education.
  • bso - vocational secondary education – job market-oriented: practical, applied studies for direct entry into the job market after graduation. Dual learning is also an option in bso.
  • kso - secondary art education – advancement oriented or dual outcome; this category blends theoretical and hands-on education in the arts.
  • tso - secondary technical education – advancement oriented or dual outcome; this category blends theoretical and applied technical fields. Dual learning is also an option in tso.

Learning and working

If your child is 15 or 16, they can decide to blend their school lessons with real-world experience in the workplace, starting in the second grade. There are three types of ‘Learning and working’:

  • Dual learning: you learn a trade in (part-time) vocational secondary education, technical secondary education or apprenticeship. How many days per week you learn on the job depends on the field of study. You will get a realistic view of the workfield. You will develop a lot of practical skills and learn to work with the latest technology and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Dual courses all end with the word ‘dual’.
  • Part-time vocational secondary education: you study two days at the part-time education centre and three in the workplace.
  • Apprenticeship: you study one day a week at a secondary school and four in the workplace.

What happens after the 6th year of secondary school?

Start work or keep studying

After graduating from secondary school, you can look for a job or continue your studies at a university or college.

Se-n-Se (advanced secondary school)

The kso and tso programmes offer a practical, specialised course after the 6th year that lasts a full school year.

7th bso specialisation year

After the 6th year of bso, you can start working as an employee or start your own business. But with a ‘7th bso specialisation year’ diploma, you automatically get a diploma of secondary education, enabling you to pursue higher education.

Associate degree programme

Associate degree programmes (formerly HBO5) prepare for a professional bachelor in higher education.
Find out more (in Dutch) in the ‘What happens after secondary school’ brochure:


Modernisation secondary education

Secondary education is in process of modernisation. Young people are given more time to discover their talents and what they enjoy doing. The key educational objectives and study programmes are even more closely aligned with current social developments. The 3rd stage reform is scheduled to launch in 2023-2024. More information:


Also of interest

Registering in a Dutch-speaking secondary school

Registering in a Dutch-speaking secondary school

You will find full details on how and when to register your child on the website 'Inschrijven in Brussel' [Registering in a Dutch-speaking school in Brussels].
Onderwijs Vlaanderen (Education Flanders)

Onderwijs Vlaanderen (Education Flanders)

The Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels fall under Onderwijs Vlaanderen. See the general guidelines here.
Schools for teens

Schools for teens

A school for teens brings together pupils in the third stage of primary school (5th and 6th grade) and the first stage of secondary school (1A and 2A).
Scholengids (schools guide)

Scholengids (schools guide)

The Scholengids provides contact details for all the Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels, together with the courses available at the secondary schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Onderwijskiezer (education selector)

Onderwijskiezer (education selector)

Onderwijskiezer provides neutral information across the education network on the whole of the education landscape in Flanders and Brussels.
Duaal leren

Duaal leren

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