All Education Is Free, but Some Initiatives Are Freer than Others. The End of Jewish Education in Flanders?

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“Education is free; any preventive measure is forbidden […]”. The starting phrase of article 24 (former article 17) of the Belgian Constitution lays out the most fundamental principle of Belgian education law: the active freedom of education. Active educational freedom guarantees the autonomy of Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Muslim schools as well as of schools based on a specific pedagogical project such as Waldorf, Freinet and Montessori.

Thus, the Belgian constitutional appears as more liberal than the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The latter does, through the second article of its first protocol, guarantee parents the right to ensure their children an education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions. Contrary to what is the case within the Belgian constitutional framework, a right to establish schools in conformity with specific religious, philosophical and even pedagogical convictions is not guaranteed, nor is – according to Strasbourg jurisprudence – the right to homeschooling.

Although back in 1831, the Belgian Constituent Assembly considered this “freedom of education” as essential as the freedom of religion or the freedom of the press, it has recently come under pressure due to policy of the Flemish Community aimed at the reinforcement of both educational quality and equality. The curtailing effect of this educational policy is most intensely felt in methodological schools and (Orthodox) Jewish schools. This paper focusses on the latter. To sketch the extent to which educational autonomy has been hampered recent legislation of the Flemish Community and case law of the Constitutional Court and the Conseil d’Etat relating to Jewish education are discussed (3). Before looking at the specific situation of (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish education, this paper briefly handles how the freedom of education has come into existence, what it means, and how the role of the government in education has been questioned, both in the past and today (2).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-128
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal for Education Law and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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