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Assessment policy: introduction - Belgium (French speaking community)

The general aims

The French community of Belgium pursues simultaneously and without hierarchy the following aims:

  • promote self confidence and personal development in each pupil
  • give all pupils the appropriate knowledge and help, enabling them to acquire competences that will give them the ability to continue learning and to take an active part in the economical, social and cultural life surrounding them
  • prepare all pupils to be responsible citizens, able to contribute to the development of a democratic, interdependent, pluralist and open international society
  • ensure that all pupils receive the same chance of social emancipation.

The particular aims

Pre-school education pursues all of the general aims and aims in particular:

  • to increase the awareness of the pupil regarding their own potentialities and assisting the pupil to be able to express themselves  through creative activities
  • to increase socialisation
  • to increase cognitive, social, emotional and psycho motor functional knowledge
  • to detect difficulties or disabilities and to ensure the necessary assistance. 
  • Primary education pursues all of the general aims and aims in particular:
  • to give priority to reading, the use of senses (as apposed to technology), writing and lessons in communication
  • to overcome the basic tools of mathematics allowing the solution of problem situations
  • to encourage the pupil to achieve the general aims of compulsory education in all educational activities. 

The structure of the elementary school

In mainstream schools the structure of pre-school education and the first 8 years of compulsory education is a pedagogical continuum structured in 3 steps, aiming to ensure all pupils the basic competences necessary for their social integration and for following their studies.

First step:  

  • first cycle: 2 ½ years – 3 years old(first pre-school)
    • 4 years old (second pre-school)
  • second cycle : 5 years old (third pre-school)
    • 6 years old (first primary)
    • 7 years old (second primary)

Second step:

  • first cycle : 8 years old (third primary)
    • 9 years old (fourth primary)
  • second cycle : 10 years old (fifth primary)
    • 11 years old (six primary)

Third step:

  • the first part of secondary school in one cycle
  • The education for 2 ½ - 6 year olds is not compulsory but 99% of children follow it regularly.

In certain conditions pupils can:

  • start primary class at 5 years instead of 6
  • stay in the third pre-school classroom until 6 years instead of 5
  • be in elementary school for 8 years, exceptionally 9 years
  • complete the second step of compulsory education in five years instead of four with one complementary year adapted to the individual needs of the pupil. This year can not be repeated.

The cycle is a new school unit. The unit is no longer a school year but a period of 4 years called steps. Each step includes 2 or 3 years called the cycle.

This means that instead of having examinations each year to see if a pupil is able to graduate to the following class, the test is made every 4 or 5 years. During this period, the pedagogical method and the work of the pupils are harmonised.

The aim of the cycle is to create a means of avoiding failure at school and for all pupils to acquire the basic competences by the end of the four year period. 

The pedagogical continuum is to not receive information about the performance of the pupil during the previous year as such information can risk ‘labelling’ the pupil.

The pedagogical continuum is for each teacher to know in detail the pedagogic method used with the pupils in the preceding years, from pre-school to secondary.

The ideal solution would be to implement a process whereby the same pedagogical method, the same rules and methods of working with the pupils would be the same as the preceding years. Changes, which are disturbing for a pupil during the year or years, can be avoided if the teacher by talking to the pupil discovers what he/she has, or has not already learnt. 

Special education

In elementary special education, the pre-school and primary structure is a pedagogical continuum. Primary special education is structured in four degrees called degree of maturity. (The number of years per degree is variable according to the level of maturity of the pupils in the school.) 

Pre-school special education welcomes pupils from 2 to a maximum of 7 years old.

Primary special education welcomes pupils from 6 to a maximum of 14 years old.

Special education welcomes children and adolescents who, on the basis of a multidisciplinary examination, receive an adapted education based on their needs and pedagogical possibilities. The multidisciplinary examination is made by a psycho-medical-social centre or other authorised institution and includes medical, psychological, pedagogic examinations and social studies. The registration is made in agreement with the parents and following this the parents receive an attestation suggesting a suitable school with the level adapted to the pupil. The parents can then decide if they wish to follow this attestation or not. If the parents decide not to follow the attestation, the pupil stays in mainstream education without special support. This attestation is absolutely necessary when applying for entry into a special school. Special schools only give support to the mainstream schools regarding inclusion.

Special education is organised on the basis and the importance of the educational needs and the pedagogical possibilities of the pupils and to guarantee the development of their intellectual, psycho-motor functions, emotional and social abilities in order to ensure:

  • integration into a social environment or in an adapted work structure
  • professional possibilities in spite of their disabilities and to make integration possible in their everyday environment and working life.
  • The pursuit of studies through to the end of the secondary superior level, offering at the same time the possibility of leading an active life.

The special education authorities organise the co-ordination between education and ortho-pedagogical, medical, paramedical, psychological and social interventions. It continually collaborates with the service in charge of the guidance of the pupils. 

Special education is organised into 8 types. Each type is adapted to the general and particular needs of the pupils who attend special schools and who have the same types of disabilities and therefore share common needs. For pupils with multiple disabilities, the type of special education offered is defined according to their educational needs and adjusted to the age and the possibilities of each pupil.

  • Type 1 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with mild mental disabilities
  • Type 2 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with moderate or severe mental disabilities
  • Type 3 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with severe behaviour and personality problems.
  • Type 4 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with physical problems
  • Type 5 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with an illness or who are convalescent (classroom in clinic)
  • Type 6 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with a visual impairment
  • Type 7 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with an auditory impairment
  • Type 8 of special education is adapted to the special needs of children and adolescents with an instrumental impairment

Each school allows each pupil to progress at his/her own rhythm using the formative assessment and the differentiated pedagogic.

  • In mainstream education a pupil who has to do the second step of compulsory education in five years instead of four, can do this complementary year adapted to his/her needs in the same school. The school organises this five year period in the second step of compulsory education in such a way that this extra year will never be a year of repetition.
  • In special education a pupil progresses with learning at their own pace, taking their level of maturity into consideration, and in agreement with the class council.

The basic competences have been created by the government who will propose them for approval in the Parliament. Works groups, where experts are permitted to participate, have been created to elaborate the basic competences which were devised by the inspectors and representatives of elementary and secondary education.

The basic competences prioritise not only reading, writing, oral communication and maths, but also the development of all sensory abilities. It defines communicative competences in other languages than French which are taken at the end of the first degree. The other educational activities aim also towards the general aims of compulsory education which are in the following fields and in common compulsory training: psycho-motor function and physical education, studies in history and geography, art, technology, science, environmental studies, media, social abilities and social studies.

The curriculum commission examine whether or not the study programme can be used in connection with the basic competences and special education and if it allows pupils with special educational needs to progress in an optimal way. The commission does not study the pedagogical methods.

A commission for the assessment tools has been created in relation to the basic competences according to the method decided on by the government. This commission develops tests for standardised assessment.

The project of educational establishment defines the set of pedagogical choices and particular concrete activities that the teaching team of the school employ for use in collaboration with all partners and to realise the educational and pedagogical plan of the government.

It is defined according to:

  • Which school the children apply for, their cultural and social characteristics, special education needs and their ability to learn.
  • The ambitions pupils and parents have regarding the pursuit of studies and vocational ambitions.
  • The natural environment of the district, the city or the village, where the school is located.  

In the case of a mainstream school the ‘project of educational establishment’ decides the pedagogical choices and actions required in promoting the inclusion of pupils from special schools.

Each school must have a protocol that describes which tools are implemented in order for the pupils to reach the general and the particular aims of the decree regarding basic competences.

In the elementary school the ‘project of educational establishment’ advises on how to promote communication between pupils, parents and members of the school team.

Each school must revise the project every three years in co-operation with the participation council.

The participation council is created in every school to:

  • discuss the project of the school
  • complete it
  • to propose the project in agreement with the Minister
  • to regularly assess the application
  • to propose adaptation
  • to give an opinion about the activities report
  • to reflect on requests for funding during the school year, especially those concerning cultural and sport activities stated in the project
  • to analyse and propose a system of solidarity between pupils to pay costs.

The participation council is composed of social, cultural and economical representatives, members of the school team elected by the team, parents, and members of the workers and administrative staff of the school.

The report of activities: must be handed in each year. It is written by the head teacher of the school and submitted to the participation council.

The report of activities review:

  • the actions taken to reach the general aims in the framework of the pedagogical project of the Government
  • the pedagogical innovations
  • the support provided for pupils with difficulties
  • the success rate and the repeat year rate
  • the continual training of teachers
  • the exchanges organised with external partners, especially in the field of artistic and cultural activities
  • the initiatives taken concerning cultural experiences, social studies, media, health and environmental education
  • the initiatives taken to promote sports activities , especially in collaboration with the sports associations located in the area
  • the actions taken to promote the orientation of the pupils
  • the initiatives taken to promote inclusion into mainstream schools for pupils from special schools
  • the recourse against decisions taken by the class council and the results of the procedure
  • the number of rejections regarding registration and the reasons why
  • the actions taken to organise the 3 years of the first degree of secondary education
  • working at home in the second step of the pedagogical continuum
  • reflections on informing the control commission about adapting the set of actions

The model of the report of activities is decided by the Government.

Registration: Before the registration of a pupil the principal gives the parents or guardian:

  • the educational and pedagogical project of the Government
  • the project of the school
  • the regulations for studying
  • the internal regulations of the school including disciplinary measures and the possible procedures regarding these measures

Registration at the school means the acceptance of the above.

The regulations for studying: For each level of education the Government has created the general regulations for studying.

It defines:

  • the criterion for the quality of the school work.
  • the procedure for assessment, decisions of the class council and the further communication of these decisions.  

The quality of the school work required is described in as much detail as possible so that the tasks asked of the pupil are within the framework of the general and particular aim of the decree.

For that the regulations of the studies include, according to the level of education concerned, the following points:

  • individual work
  • group work
  • research 
  • group lessons
  • homework
  • time for formal assessment

The following are requirements:

  • a sense of responsibility which will be visible by, expression, initiatives, careful work and paying attention
  • the progressive acquisition of a personal and efficient method of work
  • the ability to teamwork in order to achieve a task
  • respect the rules
  • taking care with presentation of work
  • respecting deadlines

Homework: It is possible to work at home for each level of education except the first step of the pedagogical continuum.

During the first step of elementary school, working at home is not considered appropriate as activities such as reading, writing and oral presentations need to be done at school.

The work at home must be adapted to the applicable level of education and must always be done without the help of an adult. If the pupil needs information the school assures access to public libraries or information technology tools from the school which are freely available.

During the second step of the pedagogical continuum:

  • homework is considered as a result of the achievements already realised during school time
  • the work content is individualised taking into consideration the current level and pace of the pupil.
  • homework is limited to 20 minutes a day in the first cycle of the second step and 30 minutes a day during the second cycle of this same second step.
  • the assessment of homework is exclusively formative and never summative (or grading based)
  • the pupil is given reasonable deadlines so as to help him/her in organising his/her schedule.

Sources:

  • Organisation de l’enseignement maternel et primaire ordinaire : circulaire pour l’année scolaire 2005/2006. Administration générale de l’Enseignement et de la Recherche scientifique, Direction générale de l’enseignement obligatoire (organization of the pre-school and primary ordinary education )
  • Circulaires relatives à l’organisation des Etablissements d’enseignement spécialisé année scolaire 2005/2006. . Administration générale de l’Enseignement et de la Recherche scientifique, Direction générale de l’enseignement obligatoire, Service général de l’enseignement fondamental et secondaire de l’enseignement spécialisé.(organization of the specialised education)
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