The German-speaking area of Belgium lies in the eastern part of the country and borders on the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. Its official title is the Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft – the German-speaking community. In the federal organisation of Belgium there are two kinds of territorial entity with very wide-reaching powers: the communities and the regions. The German-speaking community enjoys political autonomy in such important areas as education, employment, culture, health and welfare.
In this community there are three institutions with responsibility for educational and vocational guidance: schools, psychological-medical-social (PMS) centres and the Labour Office (Arbeitsamt) of the German-speaking community. The Labour Office is informing and counselling not only school pupils but also students, job-seekers and people already in employment.
Every May, since 2008, PMS centres and the vocational guidance department of the Arbeitsamt have organised a questionnaire in all final classes of secondary schools –Abitur classes. The soon-to-be school-leavers are requested to announce their plans for the future. They are asked to choose between job-seeking, further study, apprenticeships and other options (a stay abroad, etc.). So far results of the questionnaires have been unequivocal: the overwhelming majority of school-leavers – approximately 90% – know the career path they want to follow.
For the year 2011-12, 94% of school-leavers were able to state their plans for the future clearly, of whom the greater part (73%) had decided to pursue higher studies. For 88% of these students in-the-making, the specific field of study had already been decided.
Of the remaining respondents, 14 % wanted to go straight into employment. Of these 23% declared that they had already found a job and another 34% were actively looking for one.
Taking the whole period under review into account, an average of 10% of school-leavers opts for an apprenticeship (dual training). In the German-speaking community of Belgium 10 times more apprentices are trained per inhabitant than in other areas of the country.
Secondary schools in the German-speaking community offer three educational paths up to the Abitur: general education, technical education and vocational education. Most school-leavers from the general education stream – 92% – opt for further studies (higher education institutes, universities); for technical-education school-leavers the figure is 70% and for school-leavers from the vocational stream 30%. Concretely, general education and, to a somewhat slighter extent, technical education, lead to pursuit of further studies, while in the vocational branch there is a clear orientation towards the world of work.
Most school-leavers (71%) begin their higher studies in Belgium. Another 23% apply for a place in Germany.