Language issues, teacher relations add to school drop-outs
A study by a Luxembourg research institute has shed light on why young people leave school early in Luxembourg and struggle to access the job market, confirming many issues raised by previous studies, such as the difficult language situation.
Some of the main reasons for leaving school early were due to the multilingual school system, bad relationships with teachers, issues at home, or being on 'discouraging' pathways in the school system, the Liser research institute found in a series of anonymised interviews carried out with school drop-outs.
"I came to Luxembourg after 2010 and then I was put in primary school and then I had to repeat the year [...] I had a bit of difficulty because of the language, because I only speak French and I didn't speak Luxembourgish and German", one of the respondents said.
In the school year 2019-2020, some 8%, or around 1,700 pupils, dropped out of school without diplomas or qualification, government data shows, which is more or less in line with France and Germany, lower than Spain or Italy, but higher than the Netherlands or the Nordic countries. The EU average is higher than Luxembourg's at close to 11%, academic research shows.
Another issue cited is that of one young woman whose learning difficulties due to dyslexia were only diagnosed in secondary school. Others cite difficulties understanding how the school system functions and therefore not knowing exactly what is expected of them.
Others feel at the mercy of teachers they do not get on with and that could wield substantial power over their educational careers. Pressure from peers, bullying and drug usage are also cited as a reason for failure.
Apprenticeships often do not correspond to to the needs and career plans of some of the pupils, the Liser report published in early October said.
The Liser study comes with the caveat of a low participation as only 13% of those contacted were interviewed, amounting to just 22 youths in total.
The findings however align with other studies that point to the same issues. The German Bertelsmann foundation had found in 2020 that Luxembourg's school system is unfair and poses a systemic risk for the country in the long-term.
Luxembourg also performs poorly in OECD rankings, with more pupils than in the neighbouring three countries having to retake their school year to due to bad performance, and widespread lack of skills in maths, science and reading, despite a higher rate than others in producing university graduates.
In the OECD group of wealthy nations, Luxembourg had the highest percentage of pupils of foreign origin, at 55%, based on 2019 data. It also had the highest percentage of pupils who speak a different language at home to the languages they are taught in school, at 83%, which is regularly cited as a reason for the lacklustre performance in the PISA standardised international tests.