School qualification choices – International Baccalaureate
The third in our series on school qualification choices in Luxembourg, takes a deep dive into the International Baccalaureate.
About the IB
The International Baccalaureate or IB is a globally recognised qualification, taught in schools around the world. More than 1.25 million pupils study for the IB each year.
It aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people with adaptive skills, encouraging students to ask questions, set challenging goals, and make ethical judgements. There is a focus on teamwork, and students are graded on a set of agreed learning outcomes rather than a bell curve.
The IB learner profile supports ten attributes: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. As a qualification it’s seen as one of the best for preparing students for more independent study in higher education.
The IB is offered in English at the state school Athenée de Luxembourg and in French at the Lycée Technique du Centre. It is also offered at private fee-paying schools, The International School of Luxembourg (in conjunction with IGCSEs), Over the Rainbow (in French and English) and in French with German/English at the Waldorf School.
Athenée de Luxembourg
The Athenée de Luxembourg has been offering the IB in English since September 2017. It’s a seven year programme (grades 7 to 13), but students actually only join the IB programme in the final two years, and follow preparatory and intermediate years before this. The final IB qualification is also recognised as equivalent to the Luxembourgish ESC.
The school holds admission tests between March and May of the previous academic year for grades 7 and 10, although it is possible to take tests for any year if there are spaces in the class. Tests are in maths and English for grades 7-8, maths, French and English for grades 9-10 and English, French, science and maths for grades 11 to 12.
In the first year of secondary, pupils are taught English, French, Luxembourgish, maths, chemistry, biology, physics, art, music, history and sport. In the third year, geography is added, and in the fourth year, Luxembourgish is swapped for German. Pupils choose their options at the end of the fifth year (11th grade) after which they begin the IB programme.
The IB offered at the Athenée centres on classical subjects with three core subjects that must be taken to either standard or higher level – English, French and Maths. In total six subjects must be taken, three to a standard level and three to a higher level. The categories break down as follows:
- Group 1: English Language and Literature
- Group 2: French language and literature
- Group 3 Individuals and Societies – history or economics
- Group 4: Sciences – Biology or chemistry or physics
- Group 5: Maths
- Group 6: The arts – a choice of visual arts, German, or any subjects not taken in groups 3 or 4.
Tests are based on papers sat under exam conditions and essays or assessments. They differ for each subject, but you can get a full breakdown here.
Additionally, students have to take the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course to investigate the nature of knowledge in various disciplines, and participate regularly in activities or projects for CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service). There is also an Extended Essay of 4,000 words.
Lycée Technique du Centre
The IB offered at this state-run school requires pupils to be fluent in French, and generally achieve excellent academic results. Students need to train to be critical and autonomous – doing their own research and asking questions. It promotes tolerance, openness to other cultures, critical thinking and creativity.
It is also recognised by Luxembourg law as equivalent to the Luxembourg secondary school leaving certificate so long as certain conditions are met.
Whilst there is a possibility to join international classes from the first year of secondary, the preparatory classes at LTC begin in the 4th and 3rd year, with the IB programme constituting the 2nd and 1st year (or final two years). You can find out more about the early years of secondary school here. Pupils at this stage will be expected to have little knowledge of German and will have intensive classes in this language.
Students wishing to enrol in the 4th year must have a good command of both French and English, and good marks in these subjects plus maths. The admission test is in French.
IB preparatory years
During the 4th and 3rd year (ages 14/15-16/17 years) students will have classes in French, English, maths, experimental science, geography, history, economics, ICT, art and sports. As with the Athenee, more weighting is given to marks attained in French, English, maths and science.
Optional choices include visual arts, German, computer science, physics, maths, and chemistry, and students must take at least one option and have at least 30 hours of lessons per week. German is compulsory under certain conditions.
Subjects are taken at either intermediate (NM) or higher (NS) levels as follows:
- Language 1 French (NM/NS)
- Language 2 English (NS) or German (NM)
- Individual and Society – Economics (NM/NS)
- Sciences – Biology (NM/NS) or Physics (NM/NS)
- Maths – applications and interpretation (NM), analysis and approaches (NM/NS)
- Arts – Visual arts (NM/NS)
- Theory of knowledge
- Physical education
The options are weighted and you can find more details on the school website here. The arts can be replaced by another subject. Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) and the Extended Essay are also integral to the IB programme.
English is compulsory, and in some cases German is compulsory for national recognition of the IB diploma.
Over the Rainbow International School
OTR International School is bilingual and offers the IB in both English and French. It also takes children from as young as 3 years old. A fairly new school, founded in 2011 (the secondary cycle in 2015-16), it teaches has about 200 children in total. It is an authorised IB World School for its middle years IB programme. Languages that can be studied include English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese, whilst Luxembourgish is offered as an extra-curricular activity.
The middle years programme has eight courses
- Group 1 Languages and Literature
- Group 2 Language acquisition
- Group 3 Maths
- Group 4 Individuals and societies
- Group 5 Sciences
- Group 6 Arts
- Group 7 Physical and health education
- Group 8 Design (product and digital)
Students also undertake a project in year 5, reflecting on their learning, which is a requirement of the IB MYP (middle year’s programme) certificate. You can find out more about the exact details for each discipline in the MYP here.
Once again six groups – language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, maths and the arts. As with the Athenée, students can opt to study an additional science, individual and societies, or language course instead of a course in the arts.
Subjects must be taken to either a standard or higher level, at least three, but no more than four, higher levels from a total of six subjects. The full curriculum for at IB level was not available on the school website, but you can refer to the general IB site for more information.
Both external and internal assessment are used for this IB. Exams form the basis of the assessment for most courses, but teacher assessment on oral work in languages, field work in geography, lab work in sciences, investigation in maths, and artistic performances are also part of the final mark.
OTR International School is fee paying and you can find more about fees and the school here.
International School of Luxembourg (ISL)
ISL offers an early years and primary programme from aged 3 years and you can find out more about it here.
After that students follow a middle and high school programme, the latter incorporating IGCSEs but culminating in the IB.
Middle School 11-14 years
The curriculum combines that of several national systems, and classes are taken in the following groups or streams in middle school:
- Group 1 Language and Literature
- Group 2 Language acquisition
- Group 3 Social sciences
- Group 4 Experimental sciences
- Group 5 Maths
- Group 6 Arts and Electives
- Group 7 Physical education and health
Students can choose languages English, French, German (and Spanish, but not at an advanced level). Art and electives includes art, theatre and music.
High school years
In the final two years most students follow the full IB programme, although it is possible to take a programme of IB certificates.
In grades 9-10 students work towards IGCSEs and can choose from the following IGCSE courses plus additional non-IGCSE courses:
- English language – first language
- English Literature
- French – first language
- French – foreign language
- German – first language
- German – foreign language
- Spanish – foreign language
- Co-ordinated science (biology, chemistry and physics). This is a double award qualification of 2 IGSCEs
- International maths
- Additional maths
- Physical Education
- Art & Design
- Design & Technology
Possible non-IGCSE courses
- Combined business, economics, geography and history
- Communication and Media (grade 9)
- Film (grade 10)
- Food and Nutrition (Grade 9 & 10)
For the IB level (grades 11-12) students have a choice within six groups to take these subjects at a standard or higher level.
- English A Literature
- English A Language and Literature
- French A Language and Literature
- German A Language and Literature
- English B
- French B
- German B
- French beginner level
- Spanish beginner level
- Business Management
- Design technology
- Sport, Exercise and Health Science
- Maths analysis and approaches – standard or high level
- Maths applications and interpretations – standard or higher level
- Theatre Arts
- Visual Arts
Student work is assessed both internally and externally, with internal assessments forming 20% of the final mark. As with the Athenée, students must also complete the Theory of Knowledge (TOK), write an Extended Essay and undertake Creativity, Action and Service (CAS).
The Waldorf School offers education for children from nursery level through primary and secondary. In pre-school the language is Luxembourgish, whilst in primary school it is mainly German, however from year 1 or primary, French and English are introduced as foreign languages.
In secondary school, French is used as the vehicular language, and English remains a foreign language. French is also used for the main subjects for the IB, but some subjects are taught in German or English.
The curriculum is divided into three equal parts in the early years of secondary:
- Languages and social science
- Maths and natural science
- Arts, crafts and movement
Subjects are taught in two-to-four week modules taking into account individual learning processes and levels. For the last two years of secondary school, sometimes an additional afternoon of school is added for a maximum of 12 weeks.
Application to secondary school requires students not already at the school to be tested in maths, English, French and German plus an interview. In the 10th year, pupils need to apply for entry to the 11th year or pre-IB year.
The IB is grouped in the following way:
- Group 1 German & French
- Group 2 French & English
- Group 3 Philosophy & History (in French)
- Group 4 Biology & Physics (in French)
- Group 5 Maths (in French)
- Group 6 Visual arts and theatre (in English)
The Waldorf school also promotes learning via the workplace, with work experience placements. Depending on the choice or the orientation of a student, pupils will either finish school in the 11th year or undertake a pre-IB year leading to the IB.
Internships are used to promote hands-on experience and take place in agriculture (3 weeks in year 9), with craftsman (3-5 weeks in year 10), and a social internship in year 11. There are also a number of school trips.
In year 11, the class splits into pre-IB or those that will leave school for an apprenticeship or trade and study the Waldorf curriculum.
IB pupils are evaluated externally and internally, the latter by teachers and representing between 20-30% of the final grade.