School qualification choices – Luxembourgish Diplomas
School education choices in Luxembourg can be dizzying, with the opportunity to study for several different qualifications from the Luxembourgish Diplomas, to the European and International Baccalaureates, and IGCSEs and A ‘levels.
All these school qualifications are offered at state run schools (free education), EU Institution-run schools (free to employees of the EU/fee paying for other categories) and at private schools (fee paying).
To try to help parents decide which education option will work best for their child, the Expat Hub’s series on school qualification choices, takes a deep dive into each, starting first with the Luxembourgish diplomas and vocational qualifications.
How should you and your child choose?
The answer to this question will very much depend on your child (their age when they came to Luxembourg, and previous school systems they were in) but also their learning style. Are they good all-rounders or likely to prefer to specialise as they get older? Which languages do they speak (or would you like them to speak)? Do they want a classical education, or would your child benefit from taking film or environmental studies?
Our advice is to visit the schools to get a feel for the teaching style and options.
For more information on the schools in Luxembourg (state and private) and what they offer, read our article Finding the right school. You can also read our one on Home schooling for help on taking this education route.
School qualification choices via the Luxembourgish system
Luxembourg’s secondary education begins at age 12 and lasts seven years (not including a repetition in any years). School attendance is compulsory until 16 (although this might change to 18 years).
There are three final qualifications or diplomas that you can gain at the end of secondary school:
- Enseignement Secondaire Classique (ESC)
- Enseignement Secondaire General (ESG)
- Formation Professionnelle – vocational training (DT, DAP or CCP)
Classical secondary education
Geared towards pursuing a university degree after school, the classic diploma covers humanities, literature, maths and natural sciences and is widely accepted at universities in Europe and the UK. It’s aimed at those students who generally perform well at primary school, and about 40% of children in the Luxembourgish system attend a classical school.
To begin with, classes are taught in German (except for maths which is taught in French), although it is possible to choose one of four secondary schools which teach through French in the first three years. Extra support is given in French and German languages if required.
The curriculum in the lower years covers:
- German, French, Luxembourgish, English, (Latin and Chinese can be optional in second year).
- Maths and IT
- Biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history
- Art, music and sports.
In the fourth year, classes switch into the French language, so pupils need a good knowledge of both languages. In the second year, pupils start learning English (except for where the school offers other languages such as Latin or Chinese, in which case they start English in the third year).
At the end of the fourth year, students choose specialised subject areas from eight sections, in which they will have more classes.
- Section A – Languages
- Section B – Maths and Computer Science
- Section C – Natural sciences and maths
- Section D – Economic sciences and maths
- Section E – Visiual arts
- Section F – Music
- Section G – Humanities and social sciences
- Section I – IT and communication
The school leaving exams cover six subjects and are assessed by six written and two oral tests. Students must choose:
- two subjects in the fields “languages and mathematics”
- three subjects from their specialisiation fields
- one subject in the general education field
General Secondary Education
This also provides a school diploma which allows a student to continue into further education. At the end of the third year, students can choose between vocational training (see below) or continue within the streams of general secondary education. About 60% of children in the Luxembourgish system opt for a general or technical school.
Regular classes (orientation) are given in the first three years to students who have achieved a reasonable level of knowledge and capability in primary school. There is however a “preparation” option for students to be taught in modules if they need to go at a different pace, with the aim that after three years they will either join the mainstream classes or enter vocational training.
The pre-vocational route can be taken in German or French, and some secondary schools offer classes for students who are more at ease in a language other than German, or don’t have command of French or German yet. Intensive language courses are then offered to help students enter mainstream classes later.
In the first three years, the teaching language is again German, with maths taught in French. Pupils start learning English in the second year.
Orientation education (leading to the ESG) covers the following subjects:
- German, English, French, Luxembourgish
- Natural sciences including physics, chemistry and biology
- Social sciences including history and geography
- Sports, art and music
- IT and workshops
- Social education: Life and society
In the second year of school, classes for maths, German and French are taught at two levels – basic and advanced.
Prevocational or preparation
The core subjects are German, French, maths, and general culture. Optional classes and workshops plus sports are taught in modules.
At the end of third year at secondary school, students decide if they want to study towards the diploma or switch to vocational training. The diploma will allow a pupil to enter university.
Unlike the classical system, the general education system gives pupils the chance to do work experience and gain insight into companies in the first few years, so they can decide if they want to take the professional or vocational training route.
Choices for ESG
As with the classical system, six exam subjects are chosen by students, but unlike the former system, students pick one stream from the options below:
- Administration and commercial
- Health and social professions
- General technical
- Hotel management and tourism
Each stream can be divided into several subject areas but students specialise more than in the classic system.
Final exams and marks for diplomas
Exams are taken in June, but if a student fails they can take a second exam in September of the same year provided that they obtained a weighted average in the marks of the year of 36 points or more.
The school leaving exam covers six subjects, assessed by six written and two oral tests.
In classical secondary education, the six exam subjects at the choice of the student are:
- Two subjects in the fields of languages and mathematics
- Three subjects from their specialised fields
- One subject from the general education field
In general secondary education the six exam subjects are chosen by the student based on the focus of the stream they have chosen.
In both cases, the exam marks counts as two-thirds of the final mark, whilst one-third is from marks obtained during the year at school. Oral tests count for a quarter of the exam mark in the given subject.
For subjects that do not have a final exam, an annual average becomes the final mark.
Diploma supplements ESC/ESG
The secondary school diploma is issued in three languages (French, German and English) and states if the education was classic or general, the subjects, and the overall mark awarded.
Students will also receive a transcript with the final marks in the last school year in various subjects, plus the subjects (but not the marks) in the penultimate year. Details of languages studied and the level attained in languages and maths will also be provided, plus optional extra-curricular activities and courses.
The first option is a technical diploma (DT), where training is geared towards a professional practice, although further modules can be provided for those students who want to go into higher education.
The second option is a DAP or diploma of professional aptitude, which usually lasts three years and can be done full-time with internships or part-time with an apprenticeship contract.
The final option is for a CCP or certificate of professional capacity. Here, the training is also three years but takes place mainly in a professional setting, in a company or business, with courses taken one or two days a week. The school courses combine vocational training modules in school workshops and general education modules.
More information on the Luxembourgish school system
You can find more information in our article on the Luxembourgish school system.