- Little information is available on early primary education. The college of canons of the Cathédrale des Saints-Michel-et-Gudule, then a collegiate church, supervised the schools and teachers in Brussels. Permission of one of the clergy, the "school master" (scholaster) was needed to teach. In 1358, Pierre van Huffel, a city official, bequeathed his estate to establish a school for poor boys. The college of canons operated a secondary school since earliest times. In 1382, Duchess Joan authorized "official" schools and a "grand Latin school" where grammar, music, and courtly behavior were taught. In 1504, the Brothers of the Common Life were permitted to open a school in the Saint-Géry district. The monopoly held by the college of canons diminished in time especially when, in 1515, Charles V granted the Brothers of Nazareth the right to open a Latin school. Other religious orders followed, including the Augustinians and the Jesuits, who opened a school on 14 July 1604.Primary education in the 17th and 18th centuries stagnated due to lack of organization. Schooling was overseen by a committee appointed by the sovereign, who was advised by a committee of local officials. Efforts at reform were begun in the 1780s, but the first normal school on rue Royale-du-Parc operated only for several months. The suppression of the Jesuits (1773) led to the closing of their collège, replaced by the Grand-Pensionnat de Bruxelles, modeled on the Collège Thérésien in Vienna. It remained in existence until 1797. The Académie royale des Beaux-Arts was founded in 1711, an engineering school was opened in 1773-1774, and the faculties of the university at Leuven were moved to Brussels by order of Emperor Joseph II in 1788. They were later moved back.By the late 18th century there were 49 elementary schools. A central school for the département of the Dyle (1795) was replaced by the lycée de Bruxelles, which opened in April 1803, the forerunner of the Athenée de Bruxelles.A law in 1842 mandating that local authorities set aside a portion of their budgets for public instruction spurred the growth of schools. The Roman Catholic Church made full use of the liberty guaranteed by the new Belgian state in advancing its educational aims, and the issue of state-run versus church-run schools engendered heated debates in the 19th century. The Collège Saint-Michel was opened by the Jesuits (1835) and schools for girls were established by teaching nuns. Efforts to counter religious establishments led, in 1850, to creation of staterun secondary schools (athenées), mandated by Charles Rogier, minister of education. The École Modèle (currently the École Normale Charles Buls, boulevard Maurice Lemmonier 110) was founded in the 1870s as a nonconfessional primary school that sought the "development of the whole child" by means of rational, scientific principles of instruction. Representing the culmination of pedagogical practices championed by the Ligue de l'Enseignement, an ally of the Liberal Party in promoting secular education, the École Modèle served as a model for a series of schools established by the city.The first kindergarten in Brussels opened on 7 May 1827 and there were seven by 1850. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Université libre de Bruxelles was founded in 1834. A nonsectarian school to train teachers—the École Normale—began offering instruction in 1875 following 10 years of efforts by the Ligue de l'Enseignement. In 1864, a lycée was opened by Isabelle Gatti de Ga-mond (1839-1905), the daughter of an Italian political refugee, on rue du Marais that constituted the first nonsectarian secondary school for girls in Belgium.In 1879, the Liberals passed a law requiring every commune to establish a state-run primary school, and free, universal primary education was implemented in 1880. Finally, compulsory education for 6 to 14 year olds, enacted in 1914 (law of 19 May), spurred the creation of the modern public school system in the city.Language proved a contentious issue in education in the 20th century. French-language schools prevailed throughout the 19th century and only the poorest Dutch-speaking children attended Dutch classes until World War I. Beginning in 1910, pupils in secondary grades were instructed in the language specified by the head of the family and this principle was applied to primary education after 1914. A structure based on the Dutch language was begun under German promotion during World War II, which was gradually built up after the war. A policy of compulsory education in the mother tongue, as attested to by the head of the family, was followed by a law (24 August 1971) establishing the freedom to choose principle. Over the following years, Dutch-language schools declined, and, by 1985-86, only 10.7 percent of children were enrolled in Dutch-language primary schools versus 89.3 percent in French-language schools. Under 1963 legislation, the teaching of French or Dutch as a second language was made mandatory, beginning in the third year in primary school and continuing through the secondary level. Bilingual education, in which two or more languages are used for instruction, exists only in the three European schools in the Brussels Capital Region. A fourth is set to open in 2005.Schooling is overseen at the communal and regional levels today. In addition, a considerable number of schools catering to the children of expatriates have opened in recent decades. There are three European schools in Brussels, which exist primarily to service the children of employees of European Union institutions. The first opened in April 1957.See also Haps, Marie-Julie.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.