The compulsory age for Belgian children to begin school will reduce from six to five in 2020 – after a unanimous vote in parliament this week.
While education is a devolved issue, handled by each of Belgium’s language communities – French, Dutch and German – the law governing when a child must start school remains a federal issue.
One goal of lowering the age is to provide access to equal opportunities for children from all corners of the country. Starting school earlier is expected to stimulate cognitive functions from an early age and promote language learning, particularly in families where an official Belgian language is not spoken.
The committee on education voted on Tuesday based on a bill presented by Centre Démocrate Humaniste (CDH) group leader Catherine Fonck group, which has been supported by Mouvement Réformateur (MR), the Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten (Open VLD), Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD & V) and CDH. The Démocrate Fédéraliste Indépendant (DéFI) party, however, has proposed that the five is not young enough, suggesting that the age is dropped further to three years old.
The law will be put to a final vote in full parliament shortly and is expected to come into force in September 2020.