In 1997, the board of VVS (the Association of Flemish University Students) got frustrated by the fact that they couldn’t mobilize the students against the “numerus clausus” and “numerus fixus” in medical studies. All VVS-members were against this undemocratic educational policy, but as those members were already University students, they wouldn’t be the victim of it and so they were not eager to stand up against it. Secondary school students were to be the future victims but as they were not organized, they couldn’t be mobilized either. In 1997 the minister of Education planned a big reorganization of secondary education. Cutbacks were an important part of this plan and the result would be very negative for secondary school students (less teachers, bigger classes). VVS couldn’t sit aside and watch this happening. So they send out a message, addressed to all local secondary schools student boards.
Student representatives from about 60 schools appeared on the first meeting (November 1997). A working group was formed to find a name for the organization and set out a few aims and a workable structure. This resulted in the name “VSK – Vlaamse Scholierenkoepel” (Flemish secondary school students’ umbrella organization) and aimed to become a representative, pluralist forum for secondary school students. The organization was structured in 5 provincial entities, which made it easier to get more school student representatives on each (provincial) meeting. A national board was elected.
This first board focused on increasing the number of members, PR and lobbying. All this had an amazing success: by the end of the school year VSK counted 128 members (local school student boards), got quite known in the media and at decision-makers’ levels and already got recognized unofficially as exclusive spokesmen for secondary school students. More important was that this resulted in a very clear influence on educational policy: the minister’s plan on cutbacks in secondary schools was brought back to smaller amounts with hardly any negative influence on students at all. A law proposal on secondary school student boards was introduced and, thanks to our lobbying, accepted.
The second school year in the existence of VSK was prepared intensively during summer holidays. A detailed working plan for the organization, campaigning, PR, lobbying, etc was set up. The growth of VSK didn’t stop. By the end of 1998, VSK counted already 180 associated school student boards. But the most exciting good news was that the ministry of education, and the Parliament as well, accepted our proposal to recognize and finance VSK officially.
Through the law on student and high school student umbrella organizations VSK has become accepted as the official stakeholder of the Flemish high school students. Article 12 of the law stipulates that VSK has advisory powers over issues concerning its stakeholders. VSK also receives several seats in the VLOR (Flemish Education Council) which needs to give its advice over every law on education.
Nowadays VSK is a well known organization amongst school students that is continuing to gather and share their opinions. VSK actively supports the improvement of student councils by giving them access to relevant information and workshops. It’s an ever evolving organization which gains members and influence year by year.
VSK has 755 members (school students councils).
In article 4 of its founding statutes the VSK has formulated its basic goals: VSK is the national organization of high school students of the officially recognized institutions for high school education in the Flemish Community. In a spirit of pluralism and without being attached to any party or organization, VSK serves and promotes the interests of all high school students in the Flemish Community, regardless of culture, race, gender or belief. VSK voices the opinion of the students on education and related social issues and developments. VSK promotes the democratization of education: everybody has the right to receive the education of his or her choice without financial or other impediments, regardless of socio-cultural background. VSK supports student participation in school and at other relevant levels. Since democratic education is only possible in a democratic society, VSK engages itself to promote the rights and freedom of the community and of the individual, and to consolidate those rights that have already been achieved.”
In short: VSK has three goals:
– We give school students a voice on the governmental level (policy participation);
– We facilitate participation at the school level (local participation);
– We want to be a strong, wide and representative organisation (internal participation).
- Evaluation in schools
- Playground in schools
- Digital media in the classroom
- VSK wrote a book to support local school student councils;
- VSK made a website where pupils can find information about their rights at school;
- VSK developed methods for teachers who want to ask students for feedback;
- VSK developed a board game to help school student unions with their annual planning;
- VSK organized a project called ‘SWITCH 2014’ with a sight on elections and the new minister of education. They asked school students to share their opinion on what the new minister should focus on;
- Other activities can be found here, here, here and here.