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Multilingual, broad in scope, and well-funded: these are what characterise education in Luxembourg.
The education system in Luxembourg is extremely well supported, and it aims to prepare students to succeed in a multilingual, international environment. It offers opportunities not only for a classical education, but also for vocational and professional training for young people as well as adults. Because the number of foreign-born residents accounts for nearly half of the population of the country, there are a number of state schools following an international curriculum as well as a plethora of private schools that cater to specific linguistic or scholastic requirements. While once upon a time Luxembourg secondary school students who wished to attend university had to go beyond Luxembourg’s borders, since 2003 the country has had its own institution of higher learning, the University of Luxembourg, which now has an enrollment of around 6,500 students and is making a name for itself as one of the top research institutions in the region.
Pupils’ foray into multilingualism begins at a very young age. Parents may enroll their children in précoce (preschool) as from the age of three, and at the age of four enrollment becomes obligatory as children enter into cycle 1, also called Spillschoul. Educators speak to the children mostly in Luxembourgish at this stage. During the second cycle, around the age of six, the children begin learning German and soon afterwards French. In total, there are four cycles, each lasting two years, after which children enter into a classical or technical path.
Public schools, especially those closer to urban centers, are highly diverse, both in terms of ethnicity and origin as well as economic class, and the school system is a source of pride for many Luxembourgers. In response to increasing demand for international education, many secondary schools, called lycées, now offer an English-language curriculum while retaining much of the instruction in French, German, and Luxembourgish. In fact, Luxembourg now has four international state schools built on the European model. The country also has a number of technical lycées and vocational training programmes, as well as a secondary school that emphasise sports. The objective of the education system in Luxembourg is to identify children’s strengths early on and prepare them for a solid career based on those strengths.
Much due to the country’s large foreign population, a variety of private schools operate in the Grand Duchy. These range from Saint-Sophie, originally founded in 1627 and which has both Luxembourgish and French sections, to St. George’s International School, which follows the curriculum of England and Wales, to the International School of Luxembourg, more based on the American system. There is also the European School, mostly attended by children of those who work for European institutions. The school is located on two sprawling campuses and is separated into more than a dozen different language sections so that students can develop competence in their native language and receive instruction by teachers from their home countries.
Founded in 2003, the University of Luxembourg is the only public university in the Grand Duchy. It’s multilingual, international, and research-oriented, and although it’s highly modern, it retains a personal touch. The main campus is in Belval and is built on the grounds of a former steelworks plant, and the designers have kept many of the plant’s features as a reminder of the area’s industrial heritage. The university is growing at a rapid pace, both in terms of its size and its prestige. As of 2019, the university employed 85 scientific and research staff to support 242 professors and assistant professors. The total enrollment in the three faculties and three interdisciplinary centres adds up to 6,423 students originating from 125 different countries, giving the university a truly international atmosphere. Students benefit greatly from being in one of Europe’s most important financial centres, as well as the university’s proximity to EU institutions and the various research centres in the area, both public ones such as the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), and private ones such as the Goodyear Innovation Centre, located 30 minutes north of the capital.
The Conservatoire de Luxembourg, which offers instruction in dance, drama, and music, was opened in 1906, and has a strongly international character. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart University, part of the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology and located in the Kirchberg district amid banks and EU institutions, has been offering MBAs in Luxembourg for a quarter of a century. Luxembourg also offers a host of adult and lifelong-learning options geared toward everyone from entry-level job seekers to managers wanting to improve their skills. Around 9,000 training modules are available through the National Institute for the Development of Continuing Vocational Training and its portal lifelong-learning.lu. The House of Training, created in 2015, is a government-subsidised initiative to provide professional development and vocational training. The Chambre des Métiers (Chamber of Skilled Trades & Crafts) also offers a number of training seminars on a stunningly wide array of programmes, both for business owners as well as freelance workers.
It’s no surprise that such a linguistically diverse country as Luxembourg has a plethora of language schools. The largest one, supported by the government, is the National Language Institute (INL) which offers courses in eight languages. Most municipalities, or ‘communes’ as they’re called here, also offer language courses at almost no cost. For those looking for small class sizes or tailored content, dozens of private language schools operate all around the country, from large chains such as Berlitz to well-established local ones like Prolingua, which has been in operation for more than 35 years. And to facilitate general integration, the government offers reduced-rate language courses to foreigners, free citizenship courses, and an orientation day to welcome new arrivals to the country and begin the integration process.