School attendance is compulsory between the ages of 4 and 16 years. Pupils have to attend school for at least 12 years. This period involves primary school (école fondamentale) and secondary education (enseignement secondaire). Primary school comprises four learning cycles (cycles d'apprentissage) with a two-year duration each. Secondary education includes two branches of education (ordres d’enseignement): General secondary education (enseignement secondaire classique) and Technical secondary education (enseignement secondaire technique).
Higher education involves a range of Bachelor and Master programmes as well as Doctoral studies. In addition, short-cycle programmes leading to Higher Technician Certificates (BTS – Brevet de technicien supérieur) are offered by technical secondary schools. Post-secondary non-tertiary education mainly consists of preparatory courses for a Master Craftsperson certificate (Brevet de maîtrise).
The medium and upper cycles of technical secondary education offer four different programmes:
- technical programmes (régime technique) leading to a Technical secondary school leaving diploma (diplôme de fin d'études secondaires techniques) (ISCED 354 - EQF 4);
- vocational programmes leading to a Vocational capacity certificate (certificat de capacité professionnelle, CCP) (ISCED 353 - EQF 2);
- vocational programmes leading to a Vocational aptitude diploma (diplôme d'aptitude professionnelle, DAP) (ISCED 353 - EQF 3);
- technician's programmes (formation de technicien) leading to the Technician's diploma (diplôme de technicien, DT) (ISCED 354 - EQF 4).
Learners in the technical programmes represented 45.6% of the population of medium and upper cycles of technical secondary education in 2013/2014. 28.9% of learners chose one of the vocational programmes (DAP or CCP) and 25.5% a technician’s programme (MENJE, 2015).