Very few restrictions exist on the interruption of a school year. None of the governments of European countries prohibits the interruption of a school year. In most countries, no particular legal framework applies to the exchange of pupils which implies that instead the general educational regulatory framework applies.The latter Framework confers a certain degree of autonomy to the schools, which means that in several countries, the schools decide on the recognition independently.
In countries where recognition of studies abroad is regulated, this can be done in different ways, including for example:
- via a national law that gives full recognition to the study abroad, with no additional tests to be undertaken;
- via an agreement on the study programme prior to the student’s departure;
- via a system of “credits” acquired during the period of study abroad.
Austria was the first European country that adopted a decree on the accreditation of periods of study abroad undertaken by pupils, in 1986. Every year, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture sends out a letter to the schools, to underline the benefits of exchange programmes and to ask regional school counsellors to inform the schools about the decree.
In Belgian French Community the law called ‘Expedis – Experience educative d’immersione scolaire’ allows secondary-school students to attend part of their studies in a foreign country. Periods abroad need to be arranged through an exchange organisation recognised by the Ministry of Education. The sending school establishes a learning agreement with the hosting school which will then submit an evaluation upon return for the validation of the year.
In Germany, each Federal State has a different system to ensure recognition of study abroad. In most cases, the recognition is agreed with the student before departure an under certain specific conditions.
In Italy Individual student exchanges abroad are recognised and foreign school reports are valid for the readmission into the Italian school system (without loss of school years) and must be evaluated on the basis of their compatibility with the educational goals of the Italian school system. If necessary, the Italian school may require an interview or a test on one or more subjects.
In Romania, the educational system recognises the study periods abroad only if the pupil that went to school abroad proves with documents or a diploma that he/she attended a recognised school in the host country and that he/she passed the school year or semester. The needed documents or diploma can be provided only when the pupil is admitted in the foreign school as a “regular student” (who is thus passing exams and receiving grades), not as a “visiting student”. Recognition thus depends on the status that is granted to the pupil in the hosting school.
In Spain the year abroad can be validated. Validation is quite easy for pupils who go to the US and to European countries. For validation, pupils should bring a certificate from their hosting school (with La Hague Apostille if corresponds), do an official translation, and present all documents to the Ministry. In all cases, validation is possible as long as pupils abroad are enrolled in their corresponding course-year and if they study subjects that are considered compulsory by the Ministry.
In Turkey, the Ministry of National Education established a procedure for accreditation of the year abroad. In order to get accreditation once they are back, pupils need to fulfil some criteria: they should be placed in the grade that they should attend if they were in Turkey; they should take at least 5 fundamental courses (such as Math, Literature, Foreign Languages, Biology, Science, Geography, History, etc..); they should get an official letter from the school abroad stating the courses taken and the grades received.
Finally, it is important to mention that the Nordic Agreement on Pupil Mobility (Nordplus) grants recognition for any period of secondary school undertaken by a pupil from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland to one of these countries, if duly documented.