Brussels is probably one of the most cosmopolitan capitals in the world. You can meet someone from practically any nationality there! More than 410,000 expats live in Brussels, making up 35% of the city's population, 66% (or 273,000) of whom originally come from an EU country. Among those are the French, who take the lead with 62,000 immigrants, ahead of the Romanians with over 36,000 representatives, whose numbers have multiplied by 14 within 10 years. The largest non-European community to have settled in Brussels hails from Morocco and counts 38,000 members.
My neighbourhood is close to my school
There are numerous factors to be taken into consideration when deciding on an area of Brussels to move to: the cost, of course, but also the environment, proximity to shops and public transport, architectural style, greenery, atmosphere, etc.
However, in the case of expats, it seems there are two particular factors influencing their decision: the presence of other expats from their home country as well as being near a school which is specific to their own cultural background. Brussels' attraction as the Capital of Europe means that the city has an abundance of international schools, mainly in the south and surrounding area. It is common to see entire neighbourhoods being set up by expats around these schools.
The Belgian school system
It is not always easy to navigate between the various classifications of school grades. This comparative overview of the main systems should help you get a clearer idea.
|Belgian system||France||United Kingdom||USA|
|Preschool||3 ans||1re maternelle||Petite section||Nursery||Nursery|
|4 ans||2e maternelle||Moyenne section||Reception||Pre-K|
|5 ans||3e maternelle||Grande section||Year 1||Kindergarten|
|Primary||6 ans||1re primaire||Cours préparatoire||Year 2||1|
|7 ans||2e primaire||Cours élémentaire 1||Year 3||2|
|8 ans||3e primaire||Cours élémentaire 2||Year 4||3|
|9 ans||4e primaire||CM1||Year 5||4|
|10 ans||5e primaire||CM2||Year 6||5|
|11 ans||6e primaire||6e||Year 7||6|
|Lower secondary||12 ans||1re secondaire||5e||Year 8||7|
|13 ans||2e secondaire||4e||Year 9||8|
|14 ans||3e secondaire||3e||Year 10||9|
|Higher secondary||15 ans||4e secondaire||2e||Year 11||10|
|16 ans||5e secondaire||1re||Year 12||11|
|17 ans||6e secondaire or Rhéto||Terminale||Year 13||12|
Each community has its own international school
A lot of expats register their children in traditional Belgian schools. Preschool, primary school, secondary school: Brussels offers a large range of schools for children aged between 2.5 and 18 years, be it French-speaking, Dutch-speaking, secular or religious, and all providing a formal education under the guidance of the appropriate government bodies.
In addition, there is also a large number of international schools to be found in Brussels which are directly aimed at particular communities. The presence of these schools largely explains why there is a more condensed number of certain nationalities in specific areas. Here is a small guided tour of the main school establishments...
European School Brussels (EEB)
The European schools are educational institutions which have been established in the EU Member States. These schools offer children a multilingual and multicultural education at preschool, primary school and secondary school. At the end of a specific curriculum, they award the European Baccalaureate diploma.
There are four such schools in Brussels. They welcome students of all nationalities aged between 3 and 18 years, from the four corners of the capital and are aimed first and foremost at children of expats who have come to Brussels to work in the European institutions.
Bruxelles I :
- Uccle (Avenue du Vert Chasseur 46 – 1180 Uccle)
- Forest (Rue Berkendael 70-74 – 1190 Forest)
Bruxelles II :
Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (Avenue Oscar Jespers 75 – 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert)
Ixelles (Boulevard du Triomphe 135 – 1050 Ixelles)
Laeken (Drève Saint-Anne 86 – 1020 Laeken)
International School of Brussels (ISB)
The largest and oldest English-speaking school in Belgium offers classes in English to children aged between 3 and 18 years. The students come from every continent and every country in the world.
The top five most represented nationalities include:
- United Kingdom
Brussels International Catholic School (BICS)
English/French bilingual school – Preschool, primary school and secondary school
Brussels International Catholic School is an independent school located in the centre of Brussels, close to the European institutions. Situated in newly-renovated buildings, this school offers quality education in a considerate, family atmosphere. Its location mainly attracts a population which is active in the European institutions.
Three establishments in Etterbeek (European Quarter)
Rue Général Leman, 86 (Pre-primary and primary)
Chaussée de Wavre, 457 (Pre-primary)
Rue Froissart, 57-59 (Secondary)
Lycée Français Jean Monnet
The Jean Monnet French-language secondary school offers the French
National Education programme.
It welcomes students from 37 nationalities and is open to others as well as student exchanges.
From preschool to secondary school, 2,700 children attend this modern establishment which is making room for new technology.
The school's location in Uccle explains the large number of French immigrants in the area (9,500). Nevertheless, it is the neighbouring area of Ixelles, with its alluring village feel within the city, which attracts the most number of French (almost 11,000).
Multilingual education from ages 3 to 18.
The Japanese School of Brussels
(Burasseru Nihonjin Gakkō)The only international Japanese school in Belgium, it is located in Auderghem and offers primary and secondary school education.
The school attracts Japanese families with school-aged children to the area surrounding the school, a complete microcosm of the Japanese community in Brussels. Of the 2,700 Japanese expats residing in Brussels, one-third are actually based in Auderghem.
Close to Brussels
From the east to the south of Brussels, there are also four large international schools. The presence of American, British and German schools in the east explains why these communities are attracted to the nearby areas of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre and Saint-Lambert, while Scandinavians will gladly appreciate the southern areas of Brussels such as Uccle and Watermael-Boitsfort.
American Brussels School
Deutsche Schule Brüssel
Wezembeek-Oppem (Lange Eikstraat)
British School of Brussels
Waterloo (Square d’Argenteuil)