ISB for school and where to live.

Hi all.

I am Allwyn and just arrived in Brussels with family on Tuesday.

My wife visited ISB and has finalized it for the IB curriculum.

My work will be in Overijse for an engineering company.

Now initially, I had kind of planned BSB in Tervuren and stay near the school.

But after I have arrived, I have looked around the past 2 days at lots of places and have zeroed on places in Watermael Boitsfort and Hoielaart since the driving to school and work  took place on  Brusselsteinweg and the Hoeilaart road to ISB.

What do you all think, especially, Tervurener.

Waiting for reponses,

Regards, Allwyn.

How old are the children

Elder one is 11 and younger is 9 and from an English background

But ISB don't do IB curriculum until the age of 16???
They do a modified American curriculum up to the age of 16.

As they are both old enough to get to school alone and to other activities, I wouldn't dream of inflicting Hoeilaart on pre-teens. Most savvy ISB parents choose to live in ISB. It allows their children to get to and from school alone, get around Brussels to other activities in English alone, it allows them to get to their friends' homes.

Watermaei-Boitsfort and Auderghem which is very close along the 94 tram line or 95 or 17 bus lines is where I would live with pre-teens.

The number of after-school activities in Hoeilaart in English = 0
The number of after-school actitivities in Watermael-Boitsfort / Brussels area = 50+

You'll need 2 cars in Hoeilaart and your wife will spend much time as a taxi driver for the children. In Brussels, you'll have the option of public transport, you'll have the advantages of being in Brussels.

If you want an isolated life, choose Hoeilaart. If you want to put some life into your children's lives, choose Brussels.

Hoeilaart is a Dutch speaking and sometimes that comes with poor attitudes. How is your ability to communicate in Dutch? In Brussels, you'll find people far more open to those who speak no French (the 90% majority language) or Dutch (the 10% minority language).

Yes homes in Hoeilaart might be cheaper per m2, but add on the costs of an extra car and add on the extra hours travelling to school and activities outside school, I'd say that's a poor lifestyle return. If your children were going to local school in Hoeilaart, that would make sense, but not for ISB.

3 houses within walking distance of ISB. These will be snapped up quickly by ISB parents for sure.

Well, Tervurener, what you say is true.

But, I kind of find the idea of children going to an international school and living with locals very appealing.

Also, my kids are very outgoing in nature and will try to integrate with the locals.Language being an issue is something we as a family are intent on learning properly.

And any sort of racism is going to be brushed off as obviously expected. We, as foreigners, don't expect to be embraced easily.

But will keep all posted on all developments.

Regards, Allwyn.

I don't know where you get the idea that you wouldn't be living with locals in Watermael but will be in Hoeilaart. I think you'll soon learn that the opposite is true. If you take a big house in Hoeilaart, you'll find most of your neighbours are foreigners with kids at ISB or BSB and a few old Belgian folks, because most Belgians will not be able to afford to live in those big houses unless they've inherited the houses. If you choose Hoeilaart or Overijse, unless you choose housing which is at Belgian average levels of income, you'll find yourself in an expats enclave - I've been here many years and see the pattern over and over again, those with children at the international schools find it far far harder to branch out into Belgian life if they choose to live in small pockets like Overijse, Hoeilaart and Tervuren surrounded and in streets where often the majority of kids are from the 2 big international schools.  It will be slightly different in Watermael-Boitsfort.because it is full with European school kids, local school kids and international school kids, the community is less polarized, the activities on offer after school will contain quite a few ISBers if you choose wisely. I'm not 100% but I don't think ISB teaches Dutch, whereas you can opt for French. French is the majority language of Watermael-Boitsfort and Brussels as a whole. And outgoing nature = outgoing place to live with things to do = not Hoeilaart or Overjse, the polar opposite. For 30 or 40 things to do after school in Brussels region, you'll find one or 2 in Hoeilaart or end up having to commute by car to Brussels to do those things after school. It's of course your choice but if you're looking for a place for outgoing children who could pick up the local language, Hoeilaart is not the place. And it's a lovely place to live IF you speak Dutch, are in local schools, don't mind the limited humber of things you can do.

We are from South Africa and will be moving to Belgium in August. We have also looked at the ISB, BSB and St Johns.  We are still deciding on which school to pick as all 3 seem to be good.. My son is 13 and daughter 8. They are currently in grade 7 and 3 and we are hoping they donot have to miss a year as the SA curriculum is different and the school year is from Jan to end Nov. They are also English speaking so Dutch and French is going to be a challenge for them. We were recently in Brussels and drove around a few areas. Hoeilaat, Teruven and Waterloo seem to be good areas, but I guess it is matter of choice.

Kind Regards
Reesha Maharaj

Well neither Hoeilaart, Tervuren nor Waterloo are Brussels!

If you choose BSB, then Tervuren/Wezembeek are best as some areas are walking/cycling distance.

If you choose ISB then Watermael-Boitsfort/Auderghem for the same reason.

If St John's, then Waterloo east/south side are best.

Depends on how long you are staying, and where you're going back to, which school might be best.

You can easily live without Dutch for BSB area or French for ISB / St  john's areas, if that is the way you want to live. There are bubbles around all 3 schools. I know children who've gone 14 years to these schools and don't speak a word or Dutch or French and don't know any Belgians and haven't set foot in Belgian homes either.

Expect the schools to put your children in the age appropriate classes. They are quite used to South Africans who arrive half way through school years often and who leave half way through too.

Hello everyone.

I am planning for ISB for chidren's school and most probably, Hoeilaart for home.

The houses are large with gardens and that is something my children would love to experience which they never got a chance in Mumbai, India.

And Tervurener, it is sad to read that many international school-going children don't try to mix with locals even after staying in Belgium for 5 years or more.

Regards, Allwyn.

But to mix with locals, it's a good idea to live like locals, so do think long and hard about an expat enclave street with large detached houses and try and find out potential neighbours.

You also will find mixing with locals much much easier if a) you can speak the language of activities, especially relevant if you choose and expat enclave area such as Tervuren/Overijse/Hoeilaart/Leefdal or b) if you choose a more multi-national and multi type schooling, such as is normal in east and south Brussels region - in these areas, you can far more easliy join in with activities in French with locals and you'll find English speakers in the local teams / activities.

If you have a child who is into football and speaks only English .... Vossem Groenjotters is your team.
If you have a child who is into rugby and looking to do it in English, BSB is your team - don't have to be a student at the school.
If you have a child who is into hockey and looking to do it in English, again BSB is your team.


Thank you Tervurener for your insight. I appreciate it.

Warm Regards

Hi Allwyn

What made you make the final decision about ISB. Have you got any reviews for the school? They have mentioned an excellent learning support system as well which I am not sure if the other 2 schools offer in that extent as theirs. Did your children go into the same grade they were in India at this school? Did they do french or Dutch in the their previous school.

thank you
Reesha Maharaj

If you have a child with a high level of special needs, ISB has a special unit and you pay more for it I think (you'd have to double check I'm not mistaken).  BSB offers a large Additional Educational Needs and English as an Additional Language programme, where children are supported in an outside the classroom.

For learning French or Dutch, well there is no question BSB has the upper hand there as it now has bilingual 50/50 French from Reception (aged 4) through to Year 8 (aged 13) and then again 16-18, in 3 years it will have French at mother tongue level / fluent level from 4 to 18 years. They do obligatory Dutch from 7 to 11 years too now.

If you want to read reviews on the schools, look up the CIS reports, I think it's this body which does the comparable inspection reports.

Hi all.

Now, ISB seems to be the one. Happy with the facilities, infrastructure and teaching staff. Paperwork has yet to start.
Hoping for " All is Well" scenario.

The house is still in process. It has come down to 3 choices in Overijse, Hoeilaart and Woluwe Saint Pierre.

Let's see.

Regards, Allwyn.

Hi Allwyn

Thank you for the reply. We are getting together the application forms.. We are hoping to move just before the school year starts in August depending on the grades they will be placed in. We were a little confused on the grades going up to 13 as in South africa the school grades go to 12.  We will stay between 3-5 years depending how the school works out. My children will also have to learn Dutch and French which could be a challenge.
thank you

There is no Dutch to learn at ISB and only obligatory at BSB from 7 to 11 years but I'd highly recommend it if you live in a Dutch area.

French is also very useful in a French area and obligatory from 4 to 16 years at BSB. The children are all put into ability groups as some are mother tongue and some have no French at all, your children won't have any trouble at all.

ISB language provision is not as comprehensive.

Yes, there is no Dutch exposure in ISB, but French is encouraged.

For Dutch, I may join Call International in Waterloo with a colleague of mine. They have Group Intensive week and Group Once a week sessions for 30-90 hrs. I am requesting my compnay for part sponsorship.

BSB and ISB are both good institutions. For BSB, the Tervuren area is perfect. I had seen 3 houses there,
But for us, BSB was too British-centric. And we found ISB to be more global in outlook.
But, each one for their attitudes and opinions.

Will keep posted.


What grades has ISB placed your children in. The school year in South AFrica is from Jan to end Nov. My children would have been in grade 8 and 4 next year if we were still in SA. ISB has provisionally said that they would put them in grade 8 and grade 4. However BSB wants to hold my daughter back in year 4 as she is "too young". she turned 8 in Feb this year.

ISB and St Johns refers to grades 13 which I think is optional if grade 12 is not completed. Is that really how it works?


There is no holding back of children at bsb they are put in school year corresponding to their age, cannot compare a year in one country with another. For example most grade 5 children at Isb are on year 6 at bsb

8 year old born Feb 2006 is indeed year 3 now at bsb and year 4 in September

If your elder child is born Feb 2002, that will be year 8 at bsb in September. Cut off between year groups is 31August 1September

I'm sorry, but we live in Woluwe St Pierre, hardly any expats in our avenue, no integration from the locals, even when efforts have been made to socialise. We have been here 3-4 years and we have found it the rudest, hardest country to live in.

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