Flemish Association

of Classics Teachers

 

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Education in Flanders

 

 

 

 

 

Organization of secondary education

 

Over the past decades, there have been some major constitutional reforms, which have turned Belgium into a federal state with three communities: a Flemish, a French and a German community. Due to these reforms, education is no longer, as it used to be, the responsibility of the federal government, but of the communities. Within this article, we will restrict ourselves to the Flemish community.

 

Compulsory education

 

Education in Flanders is compulsory. It starts on the 1st of September of the year in which a child reaches the age of 6 and lasts for 12 full school years. After 6 years of primary education, a child goes to secondary school at the age of 12. Secondary education also lasts for 6 years, divided into three stages of two years. The second and third stages consist of four types: general, artistic, technical and vocational secondary education. In principle, only the last one leads to a final diploma (after an extra seventh year); in the other types, the pupils are supposed to follow higher education. In all types, there are a lot of different branches of study from which a pupil can choose.

 

Educational networks

 

In Flanders, there is public and private education. Public education is organized by the Flemish community, by the provinces or by the cities and municipalities. About 70 % of all schools are private, most of them Catholic. These private schools are also subsidized by the Flemish community. Although there may be some small differences between the four educational networks, the basic rules are imposed by the Flemish government. These basic rules concern the structure and the organization of education (e.g. three stages, educational types, age of compulsory education, etc.) and the final objectives (minimum objectives that should be achieved by the majority of pupils). According to its own pedagogic project, a school can have more objectives than those compulsory, which explains possible differences between schools. But in practice, education in most schools is more or less the same.

 

Organization of a school year

 

In secondary education, there are at least 32 teaching periods of 50 minutes a week. On Wednesday afternoons and weekends, there are no classes. The school year starts on the 1st of September and ends on the 30th of June. There are about fifteen weeks of holidays in a year: one week around All Saints' Day, two weeks Christmas holidays, one week carnival holidays and two weeks Easter holidays; the summer holidays last for two complete months, July and August.

 

 

Classics in secondary education

 

Latin

 

Pupils can study Latin from the age of 12 during the whole of secondary education, i.e. for six years. From the second year onwards, they can continue studying Latin only or they can combine it with Greek. In the third stage of secondary school, there are four possible combinations: Latin and Greek, Latin and modern languages (French, English, German and Spanish), Latin and sciences (geography, biology, chemistry and physics), and Latin and mathematics (with 6 to 8 periods of maths a week). According to the educational network, the branch of study and the year, Latin is taught for 3, 4 or 5 periods a week.

 

The first stage is principally dedicated to acquiring the base of Latin vocabulary and grammar; besides that, attention is paid to the Roman culture and to reading (adapted) Latin texts. From the third or fourth year onwards, Latin authors are being read in their original form. There may be some differences between the educational networks, but Caesar, Ovid, Virgil, Tacitus and Cicero are on the curriculum in most schools; Roman law and ancient philosophy are also mandatory.

 

There is no system of central examination. Every teacher is responsible for the evaluation of his or her own pupils. Of course, this does not mean that evaluation is completely arbitrary. The final objectives, the curricula and the educational guidance services provide the teachers with instructions and suggestions on how to evaluate. During the school year, tests can be given concerning culture, vocabulary, grammar and texts; besides that, there are also tests on new texts that were not read in class. Two or three times a year, schools organize examinations, in which the subject material of the past months is tested (there are always examinations before the Christmas and the summer holidays; in the first and second stage of Catholic education, there is often one more before the Easter holidays).

 

Greek

 

Pupils can study Greek from the age of 13, starting in the second year of secondary education, i.e. for five years. They can choose to study Greek only or they can combine it with Latin. In the third stage of secondary school, there are four possible combinations: Greek and Latin, Greek and modern languages (French, English, German and Spanish), Greek and sciences (geography, biology, chemistry and physics), and Greek and mathematics (with 6 to 8 periods of maths a week). According to the educational network, the branch of study and the year, Greek is taught between 2 and 5 periods a week.

 

The teaching system of Greek is very similar to that of Latin. In the first two years (i.e. the second and third year of secondary education), most attention is paid to acquiring the base of vocabulary and grammar, but also to the Greek history and culture and to reading (adapted) Greek texts. Thereafter, Greek authors are being read in their original form. While in public schools one reads these authors in a more thematic way (i.e. not by author, but by theme), in private education, there is a kind of canon including e.g. Herodotus, Homer and Plato.

 

The examination system for Greek is exactly the same as for Latin. The only difference is that tests on new texts that were not read in class are only given from the second stage of secondary education.

 

Ancient civilization

 

In some schools of the privately run educational network, there is a subject 'ancient civilization' as such, which is taught for 1 period a week. But normally, all there is to tell about the classical history and culture is integrated in the lessons of Latin and Greek. In the first stage, the subject 'history' (taught for 2 periods a week) also dedicates a full school year to Antiquity (Egyptians, Greeks and Romans).

 

 

Becoming a classics teacher

 

There is a possibility to study Latin at a higher level outside university. These studies last for three years and lead to a bachelor degree. Such teachers can work in the first and the second stage of secondary education. In this case, the teacher training is part of the educational program.

 

In practice, nearly all classics teachers are masters. They have studied Latin and/or Greek at university for four years. Two Flemish universities offer classical philology: Ghent and Leuven. The main courses in these studies are Latin and/or Greek language and literature, ancient history, philosophy, religion and archaeology. In addition, there are some more general courses like an overview of western philosophy, modern literature, art history, historical criticism and linguistics.

 

The teacher training for a masters degree is also organized by universities. It consists of a one-year programme, although a lot of students already follow some courses during their classical education. Courses include general didactic methods, historical and sociological aspects of education, communication skills, pedagogic components of teaching, adolescence psychology, etc. A greater part of this teacher training is taken by more specific modules, with theory and practical exercises on teaching classics. Students also have to do teaching practice in a secondary school.

 

 

 

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