800 extra teachers for refugee children


Flemish schools have attracted hundreds of extra teachers for the 8,500 newly arrived children in reception classes for those who don’t speak Dutch

No shortage of candidates

This year, Flemish schools have attracted about 800 extra teachers to cope with the arrival of refugee children. There are now about 8,500 children following lessons in reception classes for foreign language-speaking newcomers, known as Okan, education minister Hilde Crevits said during a visit to Okan classes at the Heilige Familie technical secondary school in Bruges.

Schools haven’t had problems finding candidates, according to Ann Devos, who co-ordinates the Okan classes for the Catholic education network. She told public broadcaster VRT that many teachers had applied spontaneously.

Last week, it was reported that no teachers could be found for a position in a Brussels school. “But it was important to find the right teachers,” said Devos. “About half the newcomers in secondary education cannot read or write, or they use a different alphabet. There are also many youngsters who have come to Flanders without their parents, which makes the work more difficult for teachers, as they cannot discuss matters with parents in these cases.”

In Okan, teachers focus to begin with on familiarising children with the Flemish context and ensuring their welfare. Then, children start to learn Dutch and take part in initiatives to integrate into the school and social life.

The inflow of refugee children has slowed recently, according to Devos, giving schools more breathing space.

Photo: Students attending Okan language class in Hasselt
Courtesy Kta2 Villers

Educational system

The Flemish educational system is divided into two levels: primary (age six to 12) and secondary school (12 to 18). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 18.
Types - There are three educational networks in Flanders: the Flemish Community’s GO! network, and publicly funded education – either publicly or privately run.
Not enough space - In recent years, Flemish schools have been struggling with persistent teacher shortages and a growing lack of school spaces.
No tuition fees - Nursery, primary and secondary school are free in Flanders.

million school-going children in 2013


million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013


percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma