Although spending one secondary school year abroad has always been popular, figures provided by the department of the French Community in Belgium and the main certified coordination organisations on Wednesday indicate that this trend is on the rise, with more and more young people going abroad to study at some point during their school years. The United States remains the destination of choice. The World Education Program organisation (WEP) states that between the end of July and the beginning of September, 540 young students will leave Belgium to share family and school life abroad somewhere. 100 of them are still at secondary school and are taking advantage of a programme for academic mobility called Expedis and organised by the French Community of Belgium.
AFS and YFU, two youth organisations focussing on cultural exchanges, plans to send about one hundred and forty teenagers abroad next year. Even though Expedis participants are a minority, their number is also growing. Created in 2011, Expedis enables students, as early as in their third year of secondary school, to spend between a month and a year at a school within another Belgium language community or in another country.
The General Board of Compulsory Education has already received 102 applications for this programme for the 2014-2015 school year alone. This number is up from the 80 applications in 2013-2014 and the 67 in 2012-2013. The increase in popularity is clear, even more so when one takes into account that this number does not include stays under three months during the second trimester of 2014-2015, cases which no longer transit via the administration.
This success can be accounted to the steady decrease in official quotas for Belgium students being admitted to educational establishments abroad after graduating from secondary school. Adrien Buntinx, spokesperson for WEP, explains that “Expedis students really have to put their all into making a success of their school year. Students who go abroad after secondary school tend to make less of an effort; they are generally older than their classmates, and if you take the example of the Unites States, they are not able to join school sports teams because of this.”