Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 10/07/24


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Schooling is optional for children between 3 and 5 years old, and mandatory for all children between 6 and 18 in Belgium, irrespective of their residence status. Education is mostly free until 18 years old. Any additional costs related to meals or school visits are paid by Fedasil for asylum seekers staying in a reception centre.

In primary schools (6-12 years old), children of asylum seekers mostly join the general classes of local schools. In secondary schools, classes with adapted course packages and teaching methods- the so-called “bridging classes” (“DASPA”, in the French speaking Community schools) and “reception classes” (“OKAN”, in the Flemish Community schools)- are organised for children of newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers. Those children are later integrated in regular classes once they are considered ready for it.

In practice, the capacity of some local schools is not always sufficient to absorb all asylum-seeking children entitled to education. During the school year of 2022-2023, hundreds of non-Dutch speaking children are on a waiting list to get access to the Flemish OKAN-classes. They might have to wait until September 2023 before they are able to get access to education. Numbers provided by some cities show that in April 2023 approximately 550 students were on a waiting list and do not have access to education.[1] These numbers concern all non-Dutch speaking students and not only asylum-seeking children.

Transfers of families to another reception centre or to a so-called “open return place” after having received a negative decision might also entail a move to another (sometimes even linguistically different) part of the country, which can have a negative impact on the continuity in education for the children. In that respect, it is noteworthy to recall that courts have endeavoured to guarantee asylum-seeking children the right to education. In a ruling of 6 May 2014, for example, the Labour Court of Charleroi found that the transfer of a family to the family centre of the Holsbeek open return place (in Dutch speaking Flanders) would result in a violation of the right to education since it would force the children to change from a French speaking school to a Dutch speaking one.[2]

In reception centres for asylum seekers, all residents can participate in activities encouraging integration and knowledge of the host country. They have the right to attend professional training and education courses.[3] The regional Offices for Employment organise professional training for asylum seekers who are allowed to work with the purpose of assisting them in finding a job. Additionally, they can enrol in adult education courses for which a certain level of knowledge of one of the national languages is required, but not all regions equally take charge of the subscription fees and transport costs.

The costs of transportation to school and trainings should be paid by the reception centres (this is part of the funding Fedasil gives) but due to the fact that the quality norms are not a public document or stipulated in a royal decree (see section Conditions in Reception Facilities) this varies in practice among the different reception facilities.




[1] Vrt Nws, ‘Hundres of foreign speaking youngsters might wait until September to go to school’, 3 April 2023, available in Dutch at:

[2] Labour Court of Charleroi, Judgment of 6 May 2014, available at:

[3] Article 35 Reception Act.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation