Education in Luxembourg: Primary and secondary schools
If you're moving to Luxembourg, here's a guide help enroll your child into the Luxembourg school system from primary to secondary school.
Understanding the education system in Luxembourg can be a daunting task, which can be made more difficult if there's a language barrier. However, you can choose from a range of national and international schools to enrol your child into the education system in Luxembourg.
Most schools in Luxembourg are run by the state and are free. School is mandatory between ages 4 to 16 years old, and nearly every school is a multilingual melting pot of French, German, Luxembourgish and some English. This guide will take you through the options and routine of Luxembourg’s fundamental education from age 3 to 11 years old and secondary education from ages 12 to 17 or 18 years old.
Fundamental Education in Luxembourg ('enseignement fondamental') is a concept combining pre-school and elementary (primary) schools that was adapted in 2009. There are four 'cycles' or grade levels each child goes through beginning at about age 3 or 4 and ending at age 11. The enrolment age for each cycle look something like this:
- Cycle 1: children ages 3 to 5
- Cycle 2: ages 6 to 7
- Cycle 3: ages 8 to 9
- Cycle 4: ages 10 to 11
Luxembourg education: Cycle 1
Cycle 1 is an early childhood education that begins with an optional year and ends with two mandatory pre-school years. These pre-school years consist mostly of working on a child's social skills and learning Luxembourgish as a way to communicate. Gradually, topics covered include logic and mathematical reasoning, sensory development, learning about health and body, cultural and life values. Cycle 1 courses are usually Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8am to 4pm, and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8am to 11:45am. Children come home for lunch, but if both parents work then lunch is provided at the ‘Maison Relais’ ('Foyer du Jour') day care facility located nearly on school grounds. The school year begins roughly on 15 September and ends on 15 July each year.
While the first year, known as "early childhood education", is optional, once your child is enrolled it is important to maintain their presence in class for the remaining time. The two mandatory years, known as pre-school, are compulsory for children turning four years of age before 1 September (basically a few weeks before the upcoming school year). Admissions usually begin in August, but if a family moves to Luxembourg later in the year, admission begins at the upcoming quarter. The norm is to register your child at least three months before school begins. To enrol you must go to your commune’s education department (Service de l’Enseignement) and bring family residence certificates, the child's birth certificate, and the necessary filled in registration form (given by the department).
Luxembourg Education: Cycle 2 to 4
These primary school or elementary school cycles last two years each. At the end of each cycle students must have acquired a set of key learning skills in order to advance. Up to age 6, the learning focus is about increasing attention span, motor skills through games and puzzles, with light sums and lettering. After age 6, education focuses on literacy and learning German, French and Luxembourg. All schools are taught from the same textbooks of mathematics, science, natural science and history.
Music, culture, community life and behaviour are other taught fields. Other classes like art and recreational activities are a part of the school system, and some optional classes after school hours focus on specific topics are known as "controlled studies". Also, two hours of study will be either on religious studies or moral social studies. Before and after-school care is offered by the 'Maison Relais' with activities scheduled out daily (and longer activity hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
Like Cycle 1, the school year begins in principle on 15 September and ends on 15 July. School transport is provided for free throughout Luxembourg. Classes run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 8am to 4pm (with a break between noon and 2pm), and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8am to noon. Like Cycle 1, to enrol you must go to your commune’s education department (Service de l’Enseignement) and bring family residence certificates, the child's birth certificate, and the necessary filled in registration form.
These cycles are offered through public, private and international schools in Luxembourg. There are just over 150 fundamental schools in Luxembourg. To register, parents must go to the municipality secretary, or service of education of the school district, depending on the location. The family must provide the registration certificate, the child's birth certificate, and the filled registration form. Like Cycle 1, changing schools is possible provided a written letter of request.
Moving forward in just one year, or needing to prolong a cycle for two or three years are both possibilities and are met with support and flexibility. There is support for students with learning disabilities, as well as individual plans developed by the school to help.
Fundamental schools are public and usually chosen by the town of residence or area closest to where you live in Luxembourg. Your family must be registered in the municipality as a resident to begin attending school. If you choose to enrol your child outside of your school district, a written request and reason must be sent to the local school municipality department. Reasons of child custody, family workplace location, or moving to another location are a few examples. Be prepared for a possible wait list, and a fee for out-of-district enrolment. Keep in mind that children across the country are learning from the same textbooks and working at the same pace. Individuals school ratings are private and are not handed out to parents or the public. Children are also free to attend early education in schools abroad, private schools and European or international schools.
Luxembourgish and integrating with multi-lingual schools
In Luxembourg, the communication language is Luxembourgish (taught in Cycle 1). At school, literacy is taught in German in Cycle 2, French in Cycle 3, and basic school teaching languages are a combination of Luxembourgish, German and French by Cycle 4. If you’re arriving from a country with no knowledge of these languages, consider an intensive home course before your child enrols. The goal with home courses is to begin schooling for your child with the linguistic background needed to follow teaching in regular classes. In addition, it helps integrate them better with their peers and students in their age group. These are called “host courses”, and Luxembourg offers an array of options. From intensive learning German with an introduction to French, to the other way around, or an initial learning of Luxembourgish, the number of language lessons gradually decreased and are replaced with the actual school courses taught in the new languages. Here is a list of language courses in Luxembourg.
What comes next
At the end of Cycle 4, students are directed to the next step of school that best matches their aspirations and abilities. National tests ('les épreuves communes') in German, French and Mathematics are sat in March, in order to understand your child’s progress in relation to all the other sixth year children in Luxembourg. Classical system schools, called 'Lycées', are catered for a university education future. The years offer the general foundation of courses within the topics of human sciences, literature, mathematics and natural sciences. Technical system schools, called 'Lycées techniques', pursue studies at more focused vocational careers like technician, engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, architecture, etc. This is determined by a combination of factors, such as the student’s personal expected levels of proficiency, their results of tests, their interests and strengths, and the parents' opinion.
Private, international, and alternative fundamental school options and programmes
The Luxembourg government from 2004 to 2009 set up several new schools outside of the mainstream public systems, with innovative teaching methods like the Lycée Ermesinde, Eis Schoul, the École de la 2e chance, and the Deutsch-Luxemburgisches Schengen-Lyzeum Perl. International and private fundamental schools opened, and new pedagogical education methods expanded into other options for learning. In 2015, Luxembourg had 156 public basic schools, some with alternative educational approaches:
- Eis Schoul: www.eisschoul.lu
- Jean-Jaurès: continuous day school in Esch-sur-Alzette: www.ecolejeanjaures.lu
- Notre Dame (St. Sophia) private school offers the same curriculum as public schools with an emphasis on French as the lingua franca:www.epnd.lu
- Deutsch-Luxemburgisches Schengen-Lyzeum Perl is an all-day private school with an emphasis on German and Luxembourgish as the multi-lingua franca and German study system www.schengenlyzeum.eu
The following private schools apply a different curriculum than public schools, and also receive subsidies from the state to make enrollment affordable.
Eschool Charlemagne: www.charlemagne.org
French School of Luxembourg (EFL) www.ecolefrancaise.lu
Maria Montessori School: www.emm.lu
Fräi-ëffentlech Waldorfschoul Lëtzebuerg: www.waldorf.lu
International School of Luxembourg (ISL): www.islux.lu
Over The Rainbow: www.overtherainbowschool.lu
St. George's International School Luxembourg: www.st-georges.lu
European School of Luxembourg in Kirchberg and Mamer are private-sponsored public schools controlled jointly by the governments of the Member States of the European Union with a European perspective on multilingual and multicultural education for nursery, primary and secondary level students.
Secondary Education: Lycees and Lycees techniques
At the end of fundamental school, or primary/elementary, students are directed to a secondary school, called Lycees that best matches their aspirations and abilities. Most lycées have viewing days where prospective students can visit the open campus and get a tour and information about courses offered.
About 40 percent of students from primary school move on to Lycées secondaire', also known as the 'classical system' school. This school system is directly catered for a university education future. Studies offer a general foundation of courses within the topics of human sciences, literature, mathematics and natural sciences.
The remaining 60 percent attend technical system schools, called 'Lycées techniques', pursue studies at more focused vocational careers like technician, engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, architecture, etc., and are still eligible for university as well. Which school is most suitable for students is determined by a combination of factors. As mentioned above, the student’s personal expected levels of proficiency, their results of tests, and the parents' opinion are the main influences.
Enrolling in secondary school
Each lycée must accept any child living in its region, however parent must still submit an application. The usual choice is for children to attend the secondary school closest to home, however enrolling in a school elsewhere must be confirmed by your local municipal director.
Registration takes place at schools in summer between mid-June and early July. A listing of all secondary schools in Luxembourg can be found here. When enroling your child after deciding which secondary school to attend, they will need to following documents:
- An avis d’orientation, from the initial lycée orientation provided by the current primary school teacher.
- A copy grade results from the first half of year 6, provided by the current primary school teacher.
- A completed registration form, available from the lycée or the lycée’s website.
- Extrait de registre de la population, your child’s proof of residence.
Secondary school usually last seven years, but children will legally be allowed to leave school at the age of 15 with either a general or technical education once they’ve complete their studies with examinations. The general education is a preparation for higher education, and the technical education allows them to learn a trade, receive an aptitude certificate and technical instruction to prep for an applicable university course.
Courses and schooling of Lycee Classique
The numerical titles of years descend, starting with year 7 and counting down to one. The initial year is an adjustment year for students to get used to the transition from primary to secondary education. It will help determine whether the classique system is a good fit. Subjects covered in the first three years are usually languages, mathematics, history, art, music, natural science, physical education, geography, religious and moral instruction or moral and social education.
Tests occur throughout the year and determine student’s progress. Students can choose to study English or Latin in year six, and some will learn English in year five. Year four helps sharped direction as to what options students will concentrate on for the next year. Students repeat and consolidate what they’ve learned up to now, while biology, physics, chemistry and economics is introduced. French is lingua franca of teachers.
Years three, two and one hone in on the specialisation of students that will direct them towards a future career. Seven ‘subject categories’, lead to higher education qualifications in different areas; examples of the careers aimed for within each category is listed in brackets.
- Section A: Languages
- Section B: Mathematics and Computer Science
- Section C: Natural Science and Mathematics
- Section D: Economics and Mathematics
- Section E: Visual Arts
- Section F: Music
- Section G: Humanities and Social Sciences
The national examinations of written and oral tests are held at the end of the final year and make up two-thirds of the marks for the Diplôme de fin d’études secondaires..
Courses and schooling of Lycée Technical
Technical lycee gives access to higher education and for professional life. Subjects are taught in German (in classique lycee it is French), although students will still learn French and English fluently. The years of study are numbered in ascending order, opposite to the classique, so students begin with their seventh year and end in their thirteenth. Students who wish to enter working life may do so at year nine, when obligatory education finishes
In years seven, eight and nine, students complete their general understanding on topics matching their interests and talents. Practical classes, work experience, workshops and visits to different businesses can be included. Year seven consolidates core subjects like language, math, science and history parallel to technology subjects like mechanics, electronics, textiles, etc. in their eighth year, English, physics and chemistry are added to the criteria. Test scores, participation, homework and general attitude are all factors evaluated throughout the year to determine how students are progressing.
In year nine three levels are formed based on theoretical or practical aspects:
Théorique (9TE) is technical training and theory; English and mathematics, German and French are emphasized.
Pratique (9PR) is vocational training with a practical emphasis; German and French are emphasized.
Polyvalente (9PO) is a balance of the top two that emphasizes on all three languages with German or French a “first language”.
Mandatory education finishes at the end of the ninth year, although most will be to go on to earn a qualification degree rather than immediately enter working life.
Students who have passed Théorique (9TE) go on to Régime Technique and its following categories:
1. Technique Générale: A four year course of mathematics, general and technical education
2. Administrative et Commerciale: A four year course split into two parts, Cycle Moyen (Year 10 and 11) offers a general education plus administrative skills, health paramedical and educational professions. Cycle Supérieur (Year 12 and 13) specialized commercial studies. Studying educational includes working in institutions with children, adults, the elderly or special needs. Further studies can then be taken to become a social worker, psychologist or sociologist for example.
3. Professions de Santé et Professions Sociales: Five years leaning towards a vocation in the health or social services, from nursing to veterinary, surgeon or pharmacist.
Students who have passed 9TE or 9PO can go on to the Régime Technicien, a four-year commitment combining theoretical study with hands-on practical experience. Students graduate with a Diplôme de Technician, and usual fields of work include a broad list: Administration and commerce, art, agriculture, chemistry, electronics, engineering, hospitality management, IT and mechanics.
Lastly, Régime Professionnel is an apprenticeship scheme available to all student who graduated their ninth year to become a skilled worker. Training is done as an internship or apprenticeship for a minimum of 12 weeks and lasting up to three years. In the end the students graduate with a degree called Diplôme d’Aptitude Professionnelle (DAP), with an aim to further their craft to a master level or attending university.
A lot of hours are put into languages in Luxembourg, enough to equal half of the teaching time during their whole education years. While Luxembourgish is taught in pre-school, and a mix of German and French are focused on in fundamental school, multilingualism is in full effect come secondary school. Reading, writing and understanding these languages by the age of eight sounds like an impossible feat but the intensive learning and multilingual environment are successfully encouraging. German and French remain the main languages in secondary education, French with classic and German with technical lycees. English is also taught in secondary school, as well as a second language of choice.
The lycee will issue a travel pass to each student enabling them to travel between home and school for free during specific school hours. Bus services that run popular school routes in Luxembourg are also commonly organized by local communes and the nearest schools.
The Luxembourg Ministry of Education provides a service for newly arrived pupils in Luxembourg, known as the CASNA (Cellule d'accueil scolaire pour élèves nouveaux arrivants). CASNA helps to assess the most suitable school for children who speak a foreigh language, and provide information in a number of languages (including English) for parents.
If you would like to contact the Ministry of Education:
Ministry of Education, Children and Youth
29 rue Aldringen, L-1118 - Luxembourg
Mailing Address: L-2926 Luxembourg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Tel. (352) 247-85125
Fax (+352) 247-85123
For more information have a look at this useful PDF in English for foreign parents and students, prepared by the Education Department.
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