Belgium's education responses to the influx of Ukrainian students
Preschool, Basic and Upper Secondary Education
The Asylum and Migration Ministry states that anyone entering Belgium from Ukraine will have immediate access to education with an adapted course and teaching methods while attending ‘reception’ classes (BeFr) or ‘bridging’ classes (BeNl). Additionally, introductory language classes are being organized for newly arrived children who will be integrated into regular classes when appropriate.
The Flemish government’s portal on the Ukrainian crisis lays out three main educational tracks for incoming Ukrainian students. First, for primary education and special education, students can directly join the classroom. Second, for primary and secondary levels, students can join those ‘bridging’ classes, they are separate and focus mainly on learning Dutch and other learning objectives. Third, students can join separate classes outside of schools (for eg collective care initiatives) where they pursue the Ukrainian learning objectives under the guidance of Ukrainian teachers, supported by the online platform of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education. The digital learning platform’s quality is monitored by the Ukrainian Institute of Educational Development, it offers classes in 18 main disciplines with a content complying with current government educational programs. New provisions to integrate Ukrainian students include allowing schools to enroll children and young people with only documents from Ukraine or even without official documents.
In addition, the Walloon and Flemish governments created provisions for 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 to allow schools to enroll non-Dutch/French speaking preschoolers, primary and secondary students beyond the regulated school ‘capacity’. Going in overcapacity is an option but it is not mandatory. For the Walloon government, as soon as eight pupils are gathered, a request to create a ‘reception’ class can be placed with ensuing financial support.
For access to special education, both Walloon and Flemish governments are waiving the traditional requirements and allows, for Ukrainian refugee students, the option of drawing up a temporary report without providing a classified diagnosis.
Finally for upper secondary levels, both governments have adopted an exceptional system to reduce the administrative requirements for equivalency procedures. This includes a waiver of certain requirements of documents needed to obtain equivalence. Instead, equivalence will be obtained through a pedagogical evaluation carried out by an educational team before the end of the school year and validated by an admissions board. If the class council considers the pupil successful in the year in which they were enrolled by the admissions board, their school career will be considered as regularised.
Ukrainian students can access Flemish higher education if they possess a foreign diploma that is equivalent to the requested Flemish diplomas. Universities are themselves authorised to verify equivalence. An exam to test the knowledge of the teaching language can also be a condition.
In Wallonia, the Université Libre de Bruxelles offers an emergency assistance to members of the academic community fleeing Ukraine and being of Ukrainian nationality or benefiting from international protection. UCLouvain is expanding their existing Access2University program for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine. In addition to access to courses, seminars, social, cultural and sports activities on the UCLouvain campuses, they will benefit from individualised support.
The Flemish Education Department shared on their website several material to support teachers, including conversation tips and teaching materials on dealing with trauma, how to provide psychosocial support to students and dealing with trauma, communication tips to reduce language barriers, how to talk about the war in Ukraine, how to teach about fake news and critical thinking, how to deal with anxiety in the classroom. Similarly, the Walloon government has a special portal for Ukrainian arrivals on the main website for ‘reception classes’/DAPSA. It presents all government communications regarding Ukrainian students as well as webinars and extensive supportive materials to support teachers in their pedagogies and in providing psychological support to students.
For Ukrainian teachers to teach in Flanders, they must possess a required level language knowledge but in the absence of a Flemish proof of study or study according to the European Framework of Reference, a temporary language derogation is possible. In addition, the Ukrainian study certificate must be recognized and the application for academic equivalence goes to the National Academic Recognition Information Centre.
An emergency decree has been submitted to the Flemish Parliament to support schools in the reception of pupils who have fled Ukraine. Schools and pre-primary institutions can count on extra financial resources at an accelerated rate for the reception of extra students from Ukraine, including additional resources to support children under 5 who do not speak Dutch at home.
At pre-primary level and for the year 2022/2023, schools are entitled to 950 euros extra for each foreign-language newcomer younger than 5 years old and payments will be done twice a year. There will be a count at the start of the school year, first school day in February, after the Easter Holidays and after Ascension Day.
Primary and secondary schools will receive additional resources to rent existing buildings and/or modular units. The government will reimburse costs associated with rent, placement of temporary modular units, collection, environmental works as well as one-time fees for utilities and furnishing.
These financial measures are in addition to existing measures for reception education for non-Dutch speaking newcomers, most of them are temporary, and are only meant to cover expenses for full-time students.
Similarly, the Walloon government granting additional resources per additional foreign student in their ‘reception’ classes, whether from Ukraine or another third country.
The EU issued operational guidelines for the implementation of Council implementing Decision 2022/382, establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC, and having the effect of introducing temporary protection (2022/C 126 I/01). As such, EU Member States shall grant access to their education system to persons under 18 years old enjoying the temporary protection status under the same conditions as their own nationals and EU citizens.
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