School qualification choices – European Baccalaureate
Luxembourg has state schools offering the European and International baccalaureates, Luxembourgish diplomas and vocational qualifications, and IGCSEs and A’ levels.
Whilst this number of options is brilliant, it can also be daunting deciding which type of school leaving qualification is best for your child. Last week, we covered the Luxembourgish diplomas and vocational qualifications. This week we take a deep dive into the European Baccalaureate.
Originally this qualification was set up for the European Schools that housed the children of employees who worked at the EU institutions, partly to enable younger children to get an education comparable to that they would receive in their original home country, should they decide to return, but mostly to promote a multilingual curriculum in humanities, the arts and sciences at secondary level.
However, in Luxembourg, there are now several Lycées where it is possible to take this school qualification in the core languages of English, French and German (and Portuguese at the International School in Differdange/Esch). If you want a wider choice of languages, you should consider applying for a category 3 space at the two schools which cater to the employees of the EU institutions at Lux I and Lux II. Category 3 places are fee paying.
These latter schools specialise in additional languages (check the website links above for a list of these) either as mainstream classes (subjects taught in this language) or as a “section without a language” where for primary and/or secondary, children take classes in their second language (English, French or German) and have additional classes in their native language. Note, that this only includes the official languages of the EU 27 countries plus English.
Nursery and Primary education options
EU institution-run schools
For early years, children can enrol in the European schools Lux I and II from ages 3 to 4 years (nursery/reception) and ages 5 to 6 years for primary school. The school year by age runs from January to December, but there is flexibility on this depending on the language and learning capabilities of your child.
Primary education is shorter than in the local system, with children completing 5 years of primary school before attending secondary school.
Mainstream lessons are in Language 1 for maths, science and discovery, history, art, sport, and Language 2 lessons start in the first year of primary school (a choice of English, French or German). Where mainstream classes are not offered in a specific language, a child will study in their second language, but receive additional classes in their native or first language. So for example, a Slovakian child will take mainstream classes in either English/French/German, but have separate classes in Slovakian (language, culture and history). It is also possible for Irish and Maltese children to take additional language classes.
State international schools
At the state international schools where primary education is offered, children join at the age of 6 years and will finish primary school at 12 years. The school age remains the same as with the local system, and children must turn 6 years before starting at primary school. The curriculum includes Luxembourgish and language 2 (a choice of English, French and German).
Some schools, such as Lycée Lënster International section, also have nursery classes. Children can attend this from ages 4 to 6 years.
How the EB works
The European Baccalaureate (EB) cycle is the last two years of secondary school – S6 and S7. It is a multilingual curriculum, and pupils at the school must follow a combination of languages, humanities, and sciences and be taught in more than one language.
Children in the EU Institution-run schools normally start secondary school aged 11 years (although some are younger at 10 years). At the Luxembourg state-run schools which offer this option, the normal age to start secondary school is 12 years, in line with the local system.
However, if a child has completed their primary education (ie they are in a private or EU institution run school and will finish aged 11 years), they can apply to the state-run international schools.
In the early years of secondary school children learn a core curriculum in their first language which includes maths, ICT, science, human science (history and geography), music, art, ethics or religion, and sport.
Students also have classes for their second language, and start to learn a third language in the first year of secondary. The choice of third language will depend on the school.
In the state-run international schools this will be English, German, French (whichever language not taken as first or second, and in some schools, Portuguese). In the EU-institution run schools, the third language may include other languages such as Italian or Spanish, in addition to the core three languages, but this will depend on teaching availability.
In both systems, children can choose the option to take Latin in the second year, and in later years there are options for a further language (L4). In state international schools Luxembourgish is also compulsory for the first few years, whereas it is not offered as a language option currently at the EU institution-run schools.
In year 3, students learn the human sciences (geography and history) in their second language, and in subsequent years, certain subjects are also offered only in their second language, for example economics.
Curriculum for the final years
The core curriculum has a set of compulsory subjects, which can be taken to different levels of complexity.
- At least two language subjects (the dominant language plus another, usually a choice between French, German and English) Mathematics (standard at 3 periods per week or higher level at 5 periods a week)
- One science subject (biology for a minimum of 2 periods per week) or biology and/or chemistry and/or physics for 4 periods per week each.
- Human sciences (history and geography) is taught in the second language and must be taken for a minimum of 2 periods a week or a maximum of 4 periods per week.
- Philosophy can be studied at a standard or higher level.
- Physical education and ethics or religion.
Pupils can then choose optional or complementary subjects to amount to a minimum of 31 periods a week and a maximum of 35 periods. Not all options are available in every school, so this is something parents and children should check first. These often include art, music, lab sciences (for each science subject), advanced languages or maths, additional languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Latin – but this will depend on what languages the school offers) and sociology, and economics.
There is however a trade off with what can be chosen for each option bucket. The choices are explained in the table here and you can find more information on how it works in the final years here, from the European School Lux I.
Exams are held at the end of S7, and pupils will sit five written exams (compulsory for maths, and languages 1 and 2), and three oral exams (also L1, L2 and a subject taught through a second language such as history or economics). The aim is to show written and oral proficiency in at least two languages.
Exams are based on the final year’s syllabus, but also take into account the knowledge, skills and attitude demonstrated in S6, and both types of exam are double marked – once by the teacher and again by an external examiner. If these marks vary greatly then a third examiner will be called upon.
Fifty per cent of the European Bac mark is completed before the final exams. It consists of a mix of the child’s attitude, attention and participation in class, their school and homework, and short written and oral tests, together with the results of their pre-Bac exams usually invigilated, timed and taken in a specific room. The final written exams count for a further 35% and the oral ones for 15%.
The following are state-run:
International School Luxembourg City – not yet open, read more here.
The following are EU institution-run but have category 3 spaces (fee paying)
European School Lux I (Kirchberg)
European School Lux II (Mamer/Betrange)
For more information on schools, read our article on Finding the right school and the Luxembourgish school system. For information on the Luxembourgish Diplomas and vocational qualifications, you can read the first in this series, here. Articles covering the International Baccalaureate and IGCSEs and A’ levels will be published in the next few weeks.