Key documents: Constitution of Belgium, School Pact, School Act, Act on Special and Inclusive Education, and the amendments to the Belgian Constitution.
Characteristics: Early on, several core principles, such as the right to education for everyone and the aim of inclusion have been established in Belgium before the competence on education was delegated to the federal states of Flanders, Wallonia, and the German-speaking community. Policy has remained rather generic, however, as the education systems have only really developed once they became regulated by the federal states.
The right to education for all has been included in the Belgian constitution since 1831 (Article 24) .
Over time, the regulation of education has been an area of tension in Belgium, as the government, linguistic communities, and the church struggled for power. This struggle ended with the adoption of the School Pact in 1958 . In the School Pact, a division was made between state-regulated schools and schools that were led by non-governmental institutions.
Consequently, the School Act, adopted in 1959, laid down the foundation of all primary and secondary education systems in Belgium, including special education .
The adoption of the Act on Special and Inclusive Education in 1970 resulted in conditions being laid down under which children would be eligible to attend special schools, as well as the organisation of various levels of education .
Amendments to the constitution of Belgium in 1988 resulted in the delegation of the competence of education to the individual regions in Belgium (Flanders, Wallonia, and the German speaking community, and the Brussels-Capital region) .
The Brussels-Capital region, however, does not formulate their own education policy. Instead, it adopts the policies of either Flanders or Wallonia depending on the core language of the schools .
Key documents: Decree on Primary Education, Decree on Equality, Codex on Secondary Education, Decree for Scholars with Special Education Needs, and the strategic plan for people with autism.
Characteristics: Special education service provision and right to education are repeatedly addressed in education policy. While a division between mainstream and special schools remain, actions have been put forward to develop a more inclusive school system, where segregation is less pronounced. Also, with the adoption of the autism-specific strategy, the needs of people with autism are recognised with an aim toward improvement. However, legislation has not incorporated a clear definition of the responsibilities for the diagnostic process of special education needs. It only implies (rather than specifies) that mainstream schools are responsible for this, since this is the place where children can opt into additional support as well.
The Decree on Primary Education, signed in 1997, built upon the foundation laid down by the Act on Special and Inclusive Education and states in Article 8 that mainstream education is responsible to educate all students between the ages of six and twelve and that schools can opt into a systematic and transparent cooperation with parents in case of additional needs . Article 9 then explains that special education is provided to children whose development cannot be guaranteed by mainstream education, with Article 10 differentiating the several types of special education, taking the needs of the child into account (e.g. whether the child has an intellectual disability, impairment in motor skills, or autism).
The Decree on Equality of 2008 states that any form of discrimination in the sector of education is prohibited in Article 20 .
Special education services in secondary education were implemented in 2010 through the ratification of the Codex on Secondary Education . Article 357 specifies that special education support can be provided for children that are able to partake in mainstream education.
With the adoption of the Decree for Scholars with Special Education Needs was adopted in 2014 , measures were taken to create a more inclusive environment in primary and secondary education. The measures aimed to allow children with special education needs to participate fully, effectively and on equal terms in mainstream education.
Finally, a strategic plan for people with autism was passed by the Flemish Parliament in 2017 . It aims to create and increase the opportunities for people with autism to actively participate in society and to increase their quality of life through the establishment of four principles: (1) the establishment of actions designed to be executed by people with and without autism; (2) participation and inclusion of people with autism in general society; (3) shared engagement between stakeholders; (4) and the investment on a select few interventions that have a clear focus and appropriate scale.
Key documents: Decree on Primary Education, Decree on Combatting Certain Forms of Discrimination, Decree on the Inclusion of People with Disability, and the Decree on Inclusive Education for Social Promotion.
Characteristics: While the education system in Wallonia started with a strict division between mainstream and special schools, recent legislation has aimed to connect these two in order to create an environment for inclusive education. The right to education is notably less mentioned than in Flanders, though still well established. Also, in contrast to Flanders, there is no strategy in place that specifically focuses on the improvement of the environment for people with autism.
The Act on Special and Inclusive Education was followed by the Decree on Primary Education in 2004 , which regulates and implements special primary and secondary education specifically for children with special education needs. It states in Articles 25 (primary education) and 65 (secondary education) that a child can switch from a special education needs school to a mainstream school.
Much like the Decree on Equality in Flanders, the Decree on Combatting Certain Forms of Discrimination, signed in 2008, specifies that discrimination on grounds of disability in the sector of education is strictly prohibited .
In 2014, the Decree on the Inclusion of People with Disability was ratified. It specifies the responsibilities of support services towards children with disabilities in educational and extracurricular settings in Article 42 . Article 43 specifies the scope of the support services by formulating four broad target groups. Children who belong to those groups are considered eligible for the support services specified by this Decree.
Finally, the Decree on Inclusive Education for Social Promotion was signed in 2016 with the aim to include more children with special education needs in mainstream education . It acknowledges in Article 7 that special education needs support can be materialistic, pedagogic, or organisational, as well as specifies that inclusive education is best achieved by working towards the developmental goals that are set for the children with disabilities, rather than question those aims.
Key documents: Decree on the Instalment of a Department of the German-Speaking Community for Persons with Disabilities, Decree on the Establishment of a Center for Education of Children with Special Needs, Decree on Combatting Certain Types of Discrimination, and the Decree on the Instalment of a Department of the German-Speaking Community for Self-Determined Life.
Characteristics: The provision of special education needs services is largely disconnected from the education system. Since the division of Belgium in three legislative areas, a separate institution has been put in charge of this provision in the German speaking community. This separation of special education needs service provision is reinforced repeatedly by newly adopted legislation, with the only exception being the adoption of the decree in 2009, which had as an aim to facilitate a better environment for inclusion in education for children with special education needs. This creates a situation unique to the German community in Belgium, where schools are not in charge of the provision of special education needs services, yet still have to facilitate a learning environment to incorporate them.
In 1990, a social service for people with disabilities was implemented through the Decree on the Instalment of a Department of the German-Speaking Community for Persons with Disabilities . This decree states in Article 4(4) that the aim was to offer early support for children with disabilities and their families, along with supporting the uptake in social systems, like the education system.
A decree that regulates the responsibilities of staff in mainstream education was signed in 1998 , although specific parts of the decree are reported in Article 1 to be applicable to special education as well. Article 24 specifies that special needs support may be provided through a collaboration of multiple institutions with the aim to coordinate and complement the education provided.
This was followed by the Decree on the Establishment of a Center for Education of Children with Special Needs in order to Improve Education for Children with Special Needs in 2009 . The Center for Education for Children with Special Needs is introduced and regulated in Article 5. Article 6 specifies that the responsibilities include the provision of support to children with special education needs in primary and secondary education, as well as to provide assistance to mainstream schools in order to improve the quality and inclusivity of education for children with special education needs.
Furthermore, Article 16 amends the aforementioned Decree of 1998, installing the aim of education for children with special education needs, which is to enable them to live an independent and social life. On top of that, it formulates a clear definition of children with special education needs and specified the responsibilities of school staff towards the parents that raise the child. Article 17 then amends the Decree on Primary Education to facilitate better distribution of resources based on the distribution of children with special education needs.
The Decree on Combatting Certain Types of Discrimination was implemented in 2012 . In Articles 3 and 4, it states that any form of discrimination on the grounds of disability is strictly prohibited in the education sector.
Finally, the Decree on the Instalment of a Department of the German-Speaking Community for Self-Determined Life was ratified in 2016 . With the instalment of this department, the scope was increased significantly compared to its previous iteration, as is specified in Articles 6 and 11.
More specifically, Article 6 states that the responsibilities towards the general public include creating awareness for special education needs and its current support provision, as well as to conduct research to improve these services moving forward. Article 11 proceeds to specify that the responsibilities of the department towards children with special education needs focus on providing guidance and support in their development, education, and social integration.