Last non-mixed Flemish school to unite boys and girls

Summary

The last school in Flanders to separate boys and girls into different departments will mix classes starting this autumn

“Technically illegal”

The separate girls’ and boys’ departments of primary school Sint-Jozef in Genk, Limburg, will be joined together next September. Sint-Jozef is the last school in Flanders where boys and girls follow classes in separate departments.

“We received more and more comments from parents preferring to have their children taught in a mixed school,” said Raf Claes, the current director of the girls’ school and future general-director of the merged schools. “The decrease of the number of students in the boys’ school also played an important role in the decision.”

Claes admitted that there were also parents who sent their children to Sint-Jozef because they liked the separate classes. “Parents from the Muslim community particularly appreciated the system,” he said. The school has had, however, only positive reactions to the news of the merge, including from Muslim families.

Although the official start of merged education is the next academic  year, 13 boys are already following classes in the girls’ department. In the coming months, the staff will fully prepare the merge. “We want to keep the best of both departments,” said Claes.

According to Willy Bombeek, spokesperson for the Catholic education network, separated education is in principle not allowed anymore. “It means you refuse students on the basis of their gender, and that is illegal,” he said.

Photo: Ingimage

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.
1

million school-going children in 2013

30

million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013

11

percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma