Atomium in Brussels

Why Love Belgium for Education and Health Care?

This is a continuation of my previous post about what to love about Belgium. Aside from the 8 things I discussed in detail, here are the 2 other things that I personally appreciate while living in this country – the Education System and their Health Care. Let’s see why…

9. Education System

We all agree that every child has the right to go to school and learn, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how much money their family has. But sadly, education remains inaccessible for millions of children around the world.

Belgium on the other hand is included on the list of top 20 countries with the best education system in the world. Let’s have a closer look at Belgium’s education system.

Education here is compulsory from the age of 5 to 18 years old. However, note that a compulsory education here does not mean an obligation to go to school. Parents may choose to homeschool their children.

Education here is almost free (meaning no high amount of tuition fees) from pre-school up to secondary school throughout the country. Except if you opt to bring your child to some private schools such as Montesorri and International Schools.  Possible costs in local schools include paying for various learning materials and some class excursions and field trips.

Pre-school is free and starts from the age of 2 1/2 years. Although pre-school education is not yet compulsory, the majority of parents opt to do this because it provided working parents free childcare at the same time. And although pre-school classes have fewer formal lessons, it also provides the child with an easy transition into primary education, both on a social and academic level.

Schools in Belgium are rigorous too in terms of assessing students at the end of each year to determine whether a pupil is ready to move on to the next level. This means that the possibility of repeating a year is really possible.

Primary is from 6 – 12 years of age. Usually, morning classes focus on literacy and mathematics, while in the afternoon, other subjects are tackled such as science, history, music, and art. Wednesdays are half-day, so many schools offer extra-curricular activities such as football, dance, playing musical instruments, judo, etc.

Belgium is a country that is divided into 3 regions, so classes are taught in the language of the community – French, Dutch, or German. Because of this linguistic culture, schools teach another official language early on, usually from the fifth year of primary school (age 11). So by the end of primary education, a child can easily speak at least 2 official languages of the country.

Many schools also offer swimming classes from primary until high school. Children’s artistic side is also enhanced by giving them crafting activities throughout the year. How I wish we had this in the Philippines!

What I love about Belgium’s education system aside from being almost free, is that they use pedagogical excursions to teach children how to be independent at an early age. All primary-aged kids MUST participate in some form of field trips, such as classe de mer (near the seaside), classe verte (countryside or forests) and classe de neige (ski trip). These three field trips vary from 2 nights stay up to 1 week. On each trip, a child learns not only about nature but also how to be independent, how to deal with other kids’ behavior, as well to overcome the fear of not having their parents at night for a couple of days.

Secondary education (ages 12-18) is also compulsory. Though the curriculum is broad in the first 2 years, as students move into higher years, they have more choices about the subject they would like to take. In the final cycle, between ages 16 and 18, it is also possible for students to study part-time while undergoing vocational or technical training. There is also a possibility to choose technical courses that will enable them to finish schooling at the age of 18 and start working. But if a child wanted to pursue higher education, they could do so only after finishing the 6-year secondary education.

DID YOU KNOW? All school-aged children (5-18 yrs old) are expected to be present at school daily. Every student regardless of age has a maximum limit of absences of about 9 half days per school year, which is equivalent to 1 whole week (4 whole days and 1 half-day. Wednesday is always a half-day). So if a child exceeds this limit, a parent should expect to be summoned by the principal and needs to explain why.

Belgium’s view about education is definitely something I appreciate here, offering it almost for free. Every child here is given an opportunity to learn, study and finish their education regardless of where they come from.

Whereas in the Philippines, the high cost of education is one major problem for many families. Even though children want to attend school, they just couldn’t afford it. That’s why so many Filipino parents decided to work abroad in order to send their children to school. Sometimes others rely on other family members such as older siblings, aunts/uncles, or grandparents, in order to support their schooling.

This fact could be one of the reasons why some may choose to love and enjoy life here in Belgium.

10. Health Care System

According to the Health Consumer House Report dated February 25, 2019, Belgium ranked 5th in the 2018 Euro Health Consumer Index. The report says: “Perhaps the most generous healthcare system in Europe seems to have got its quality and data reporting acts together, and ranks 5th in the 2018 EHCI.”

Coming from one Asian country with high costs of medical expenses, I could really appreciate Belgian Healthcare. Here’s why.

The Belgian healthcare system is divided into two – the state and the private sectors – meaning the fees are payable by both sectors. The state system is funded by mandatory health insurance which allows residents to access subsidized services such as doctors, hospital care, dental care, maternity costs, and prescriptions. Aside from the mandatory health insurance provided by the state, many private sectors usually provide extra health insurance for their employees to cover short-term illnesses and accidents at work.

Health care here is not limited to locals. Even foreign immigrants can easily access health care. But of course, in order to have access, they must register first for social security services, apply to one of the many local health insurances and then pay the minimum premiums (either monthly, trimester, or annually). However, those who don’t qualify to access subsidized public healthcare must take out private insurance to cover any medical treatment they might have while here.

Most doctors in Belgium work within the state’s health insurance scheme, meaning most of the doctor’s fees will be covered by the health insurance, so you can choose your doctor. However, patients usually pay the doctor upfront and then will get a refund later from their health care insurance company.

The health insurance funds will cover the following:

  • around 50-75% of the costs for doctors, private clinics and hospitals
  • almost 80-90% of prescribed medications
  • basic dental costs such as routine cleaning
  • entire maternity costs including monthly routine check-ups

What is also nice is that even the unemployed residents, pensioners, students, and those with disabilities are entitled to the same health care as the working population. Private employees usually receive automatic coverage not only for themselves but also for their children, as well as any dependent spouses.

Indeed, we all need health care one day or another. So having easy access to health care benefits can really reduce huge anxieties. Maybe this is another reason why many choose to live, enjoy and love Belgium.

Are there some things that you personally appreciate while living here in Belgium? Please share it with us by leaving a comment below, thanks!

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