The Luxembourgish school system
Putting your child through an education system you are not familiar with can spark a long list of questions about how it works, the enrolment procedure, curriculum and various options at different stages of school years.
In the Luxembourgish system there is also the question of languages – which of the country's three official languages are taught and at what age.
Here is everything you need to know about the local school system, from the optional précoce for three-year-olds, to primary school and the two different types of secondary.
What is précoce?
Précoce is the step between crèche and primary school. It is open to children aged between three and four years old but is not mandatory. Every commune has a précoce class and children normally start at the beginning of the school year but some communes allow children to start at the beginning of the second or third term.
Every child who turns four before the 1 September must attend primary school. The child starts in Cycle 1, known as Spillschoul (literally meaning play school). It can be compared to preschool. The child will be in Spillschoul for two years.
School years are referred to as 'cycles' and go from Cycle 1 to Cycle 4 in primary. Each cycle lasts two years.
How do I enrol my child at primary school?
Parents should contact their commune to enrol their child directly through the education department.
Cycle 1 – Instruction language is Luxembourgish.
Cycle 2-4 – This is when children learn to read and write and this is done in German. German is the teaching language throughout primary school and children start learning French in the second year of Cycle 2 (seven years old).
Two types of secondary school
There are two types of secondary school – classic and general (lycée classique and lycée général). The general secondary school used to be known (and sometimes still is known) as technical secondary school (lycée téchnique).
Teachers and parents decide together which of the two types of school pupils will attend, based on test results and school reports.
Classic secondary schools take pupils through the baccalaureate and in general secondary schools pupils can take the baccalaureate or do vocational training.
Choosing a secondary school
The decision process starts from the first year of Cycle 4 (10 years old) when teachers hold meetings with parents to talk about the different types of schools. The teacher comes up with a first prediction at the end of the first year of Cycle 4. This is based on the child's results in classroom tests and the end-of-year report. At the end of Cycle 4 a final decision must be taken.
If parents and the teacher cannot reach a decision they all agree on, the orientation committee (commission d'orientation) becomes involved. This consists of a Cycle 4 primary school teacher and a primary school headteacher from a different school, a secondary school teacher from a classical school and a teacher from a general school, and a psychologist.
Registration for secondary schools is open from the end of June to the beginning of July.
Luxembourg secondary schools usually hold open days to allow parents and pupils to visit and ask questions directly to staff members.
Classic secondary school
Classes are in German for the first three years but switch to French in the fourth year without any transition. The only subject which is taught in French from the first year of secondary school is maths. Pupils need to have good knowledge of both languages.
There are four classic secondary schools across the country which also teach through French in the first three years.
Pupils who want to go to a classic secondary school but do not have a high enough level in French or German have the option of state-run international and European schools. You can find more information on these in our article on Finding the right school.
In the second year pupils choose a foreign language. The choice is English or Latin and those who choose Latin start English the following year.
At the end of 4è (15 years old) pupils have to choose specialised subject areas – known as choosing an orientation – from a choice of eight sections:
- Section A – Languages
- Section B – Maths and IT
- Section C – Natural sciences and maths
- Section D – Economic sciences and maths
- Section E – Art
- Section F – Music
- Section G – Human and social sciences
- Section I – IT and communication
This means pupils will have more classes in subjects within the specialised area.
General secondary school
The school is split into lower-school (7è to 5è, that is 12 to 14 years old) and upper-school (4è to 1ère or 15 to 18 years old).
In the lower school there are two streams – guidance (orientation) stream and preparation (préparation) stream.
The preparation classes are aimed at pupils who have not gained the required skills or grades in primary school to be able to join the guidance stream. At the end of lower-school those pupils either join the guidance stream for upper-school classes or go on to vocational training.
In the lower-school (7è-5è) the teaching language is German, except for maths which is taught in French. Pupils start learning English in their second year.
There are four general secondary schools across the country which also teach in French in the first three years.
At the end of the third year (5è when pupils are 14 years old) pupils decide whether they want to study towards a baccalaureate or do vocational training.
A bac from a general secondary school gives pupils the same access to university as those who go to a classic secondary school.
The lower years of technical secondary school also allow pupils to gain an insight into various jobs and they often visit companies and can do work experience. This is particularly useful for pupils who want to go down the route of professional training at the end of the third year (5è).
Other state and private school options
There are public and private schools which offer an alternative curriculum to the Luxembourgish system. This includes primary education in several languages and secondary education that lead to the European and International Baccalaureates or International GCSEs and A'levels. You can find a list of them together with links in our article Finding the right school.