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Brussels lowers mandatory school starting age

© Belga

The Government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (FWB) approved on Thursday the first reading of a draft decree imposing as of next September schooling for all children from the age of five — against the current age six.

This measure aims to reduce school failure in primary education by requiring all children 5 years old to register in the 3rd year of kindergarten. 

Considered in the last fifteen years, this age reduction should allow faster detection of potential learning difficulties, help children integrate school codes at an earlier age, better master the language of education and increase their learning opportunities and success in primary education. 

At present, only 97% of children aged 5 are in school in Wallonia-Brussels. As education becomes compulsory from kindergarten 3, the tolerated number of non-excused half-day absence will be reduced next September to nine, as is already the case in primary education. The Cabinet of the Minister of Education Caroline Desire (PS) states, however, that some “flexibility” will be applied. 

A vast information campaign will be organized as of March to ensure accurate communication of this new constraint. Parents or guardians whose children have not attended kindergarten in 2019-2020 will also receive a personalized letter at their home to inform them of the new measure. 

Belgium is not alone in its desire to lower the compulsory school age. Last year, France decided to lower it to 3 years, against 6 before.

The Brussels Times