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Brussels may be home to pontificating politicians and loquacious lawmakers, but don’t despair as it is also the birthplace of Tintin, Simenon and moules et frites, as well as the home to a small number of good international schools.  

Best Schools in Brussels Belgium

Education in Brussels 

Given the number of nationalities with flags outside the European Union headquarters, it’s quite surprising that there are so few international schools in Brussels. However, this is not a permanent place of work - rather, somewhere that politicians and their civil servants drop in and out of in the hopes of sealing a deal or at least forging useful alliances. Hopping on a plane or train, holding a meeting and then getting back to your own country for dinner tends to be the rule, rather than relocating the whole family operation to this small capital. 

Another reason why there are not more international schools here could be the existence of the European schools in Brussels. They were originally founded to teach the children of EU staff and officials and have expanded as successive waves of bureaucrats arrive in Brussels. These schools are divided into language sections, teaching the same curriculum to students, mainly in their mother-tongues, but with a rule that they choose either English, French or German as their second language. The choice is wide with Danish, Hungarian, Italian, Polish and Spanish sections and if their mother-tongue is not covered, they can still enrol in the English, French and German departments. 

With private schools in short supply, it would be natural for international families to investigate the possibilities of the local schools but, be warned - this is a minefield. First off, you are dealing with three separate school systems: Flemish, French and German speaking. To further complicate things, there are two types of schools in each community: community owned, subsidised public schools (run by the provinces and municipalities) and subsidised free schools (mainly run by bodies affiliated to the Catholic church). Almost all are co-ed and - usefully for the double-income, often stuck at work family - provide a cooked lunch and after-school supervision. 

Nursery starts at two-and-a-half, primary runs from 6 to 12 and secondary from 12 to 18. Secondary education has four sectors: general - for those heading to higher education; technical - which can lead straight into a profession or non-university higher education; art studies - leading to further education in an art institute; and professional - with a more practical emphasis, for those going straight into the workplace. 

Choosing a school in Brussels 

Due to the lack of buyers, the choices available for those who want an international education for their children are fairly limited. Almost all the international schools that do exist lie in a ragged arc outside Brussels and roughly 20 to 30 minutes’ drive from the centre - although the communes, which expats usually choose as home, are all closer to the schools: Ixelles, with its chic town houses and its neighbour, Watermael- Boitsfort, with its more countrified atmosphere, on the edge of the Sonian forest. Both have the advantage of being within walking distance of either the International School of Brussels or St John’s International School. 

The impossible-to-pronounce (at least, for a non-Belgian) river Woluwe runs through Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, which was once an agricultural district but is now completely urbanised and home to diplomats and embassy staff. It is a quick hop from the European institutions, as well as being fairly close to the international schools. Etterbeck, marginally closer to the centre, is the other likely choice but still close enough to the schools to avoid a dawn start, when it comes to making it to school on time. 

Best schools in Brussels 

British School of Brussels 

National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level/ BTEC/ IB Diploma; ages 18 months–18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,350 students

A modern school, both well-established and highly regarded, offering an English-based curriculum. Located in Tervuren, a suburb about 10 minutes outside Brussels, adjacent to the vast and serene Tervuren Park and near the African Museum. Predominantly British teachers but around 70 different nationalities represented. Terrific facilities, including sports complex with 25m swimming pool, kitchen classrooms, design and textile technology workshops etc.

Click here to read our full review of British School of Brussels.

International School of Brussels 

Common Ground Curriculum (CGC)/ AP/ IB Diploma; ages 3-18; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 1,460 students

Large school but with small classes, on a beautiful wooded campus in the Watermael Boitsfort suburb of Brussels (ISB is completely hidden from sight) from the road. Developing a 21st century curriculum to encourage creative expression and connections to the natural world. Newish secondary school, extensive sports facilities and large and colourful playgrounds. Predominantly American but students from more than 60 different nationalities. Accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).

St John's International School  

PYP/ MYP/ IB Diploma/ AP; ages 2-18; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; private non-profit; 500 students

American elementary, middle and high school in the suburb of Waterloo (with easy access from Brussels) offering the International Baccalaureate programmes to students from over 50 nationalities. Founded by nuns (Faithful Companions of Jesus) and still placing a strong emphasis on Christian values. Now owned by the 42 strong Inspired Group of schools. Accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA). Purpose-built facilities including an art studio and a 400-seat theatre.

These schools have been brought to our attention, but until we have more reports from parents, we are unable to consider reviewing them.

BEPS International School

IEYC/ IPC/ MYP; ages 2-15; co-ed; day; independent; independent; privately owned; 220 students

Founded in 1972 as an English language primary school in a prosperous suburb of Brussels, next to the Bois de la Cambre. The secondary school opened in 2018 with the intention of adding an additional year group annually up to the age of 18 and offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

British Junior Academy of Brussels

Adapted National Curriculum for England; ages 3-14; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 200 students

In Etterbeek, which has metamorphosed from a hamlet, via a middle ages barony into the upmarket, residential area of the 21st century. The school is twenty-five years old and providing an English education from nursery to senior school entry. Expanding upwards, with year 7 entry started in September 2019. Leavers have moved on to academic schools in the UK including Eton, King’s Canterbury and Westminster as well as leading Brussels options.

French International School of Brussels

French curriculum; ages 2-10; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 50 students

A brand new primary school owned by the Odyssey network which aims to combine a French academic programme with influences from other international educational systems, in global schools.

ISF Tervuren International School

Adapted curriculum/ International Primary Curriculum; ages 3-11; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 70 students

Result of a merger in 2017, between the ISF International School Tervuren and St Paul's British Primary School. An Accredited Member of the Council of British Overseas Schools (COBIS).

Lycée Francais Jean-Monnet

French curriculum/ Brevet/ French Bac; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; state; 2,720 students

Established over a century ago, a member of the French Agency for Education Abroad network (AEFE) and accredited by the French Ministry of Education. Students come from around 40 different nationalities but the majority are either Belgian or French. Located in Uccle, about half an hour south of Brussels centre.

Montgomery International School

IB Primary Years Programme/ IB Middle Years Programme/ IB Diploma; ages 4-18; co-ed; day; independent: privately owned; 2,15 students

A fully accredited IB school for students from elementary to secondary years. Offers a programme entirely in English with French as a second language as well as a bilingual programme with French and English immersion courses (which students can select even if not perfectly fluent in French). Strong IB results with 100 per cent pass rate since its introduction in 2015. Located in the heart of Brussels.

For more information on the schools above, please go to each school’s individual entry on the Good Schools Guide international search.




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