Types of institutions
Secondary education is delivered by high schools called lycées. Some of these exclusively provide either 'classic' secondary education (ESC) or 'general' secondary education (ESG). Other establishments offer both types of provision.
The ministry of Education's publication on Key figures of the education system mentions, for school year 2020/21, a total of 40 public and 13 private secondary schools. 39 108 pupils were following the national curriculum, whereas 9 515 pupils were taught with an international curriculum.
The Luxembourgish education system has been diversifying its offer during the recent years in order to provide the most appropriate education to an ever more diversifying and multilingual student population. A growing number of public schools can nowadays propose an alternative main language option or provide international curricula.
Secondary schools are placed under the direct authority of the ministry of Education, Children and Youth (MENJE; ministère de l'Éducation nationale, de l'Enfance et de la Jeunesse). They have to comply with the ministry's current directives on programmes, certificates, admission and human resources.
Within this framework, however, the modified law of 25 June 2004 on the organisation of secondary schools confers lycées a certain degree of autonomy with regard to:
- Contents and teaching methods
- Organisation of teaching
- Financial management.
This relative autonomy aims at allowing secondary schools some degree of flexibility to address specific challenges related to the institution or to their student population.
Since the entry into force of the sectoral master plan for lycées (plan directeur sectoriel 'lycées') in 2005, secondary schools are organised in 4 education hubs (pôles d’enseignement): North, South, East and Centre (subdivided into Centre-North and Centre-South). The hubs themselves are subdivided into neighbourhood areas around the existing and planned lycées.
Each of these education hubs has to offer all the current programmes of secondary education and thrives to achieve the best possible coordination between its different secondary schools.
Pupils are usually admitted to the neighbourhood area secondary school that provides the type of education recommended by the guidance decision they received at the end of elementary education (see Eurydice artcile 5.3.- Assessment in primary education). If the number of enrolments exceeds the neighbourhood school’s capacities, the pupils have the right to enrol in another establishment located within the same educational hub.
Upon a reasoned request, pupils may also attend secondary schools outside that zone. In this case, they are not entitled to claim special transport arrangements.
Since 1 March 2020, public transport in Luxembourg can be used free-of-charge throughout the country and for all modes of transport - trams, trains, and buses. This social measure applies to all users – residents, cross-border commuters or tourists.
Admission requirements and choice of school
In principle, students are free to enrol in the establishment of their choice, if there is sufficient availability. They have priority at a lycée of their municipality’s neighbourhood area.
The main criteria for the school's admission decision are the guidance decision established at the end of elementary education (for further details, see Transition from elementary to secondary education in subchapter 5.3) and learner’s place of residence.
Registration takes place from th end of June to the beginning of July. Students' applications have to include the following documents:
- Guidance decision of the preceding year
- Completed registration form
- Expanded residence certificate in the name of the student
- End-of-cycle assessment report of cycle 4 (bilan de fin de cycle)
- Recent passport photograph of the pupil
Age levels and grouping of pupils/students
Classes are of one single level. There is a teacher for each subject. Depending on the school's practices concerning continuity, timetable availability and staff wishes, a teacher may go on with a class for several years in a row, but there is no general rule in that respect.
Classes are to be split if they have more than 29 students. In practice, though, the average number of students per class in public schools is reasonably lower. The Education ministry's 2015/16 statistic mention an average of 21 pupils per class in public classic secondary education (Key Figures, p.28), and an average of 17.2 students per class in the three first years of general (technical) secondary education (ibid., p.34).
In classic secondary education (ESC) students' theoretical age at the beginning of the school year ranges from 12 to 18 years (7 years of schooling).
In general secondary education (ESG), ages at the beginning of the school year may go from 12 to 18 years (19 for some professions of the health and social sector; 17 for learners in VET pathways).
Stages of secondary education
The graphic below shows the stages of Luxembourgish secondary education. It shows the pathways of ESC classic secondary and the ESG general secondary.
- Classic secondary education (ESC) is academically-oriented and lasts 7 years; the final diploma allows access to further higher studies and university
- General secondary education (ESG) offers a vocationally-oriented study choice and mainly prepares students to working life; studies last between 6 and 8 years depending on the pathway chosen; the final certification obtained allows its holder various prospects: higher education, higher technical or vocational studies or access to the job market as a qualified worker.
(source: MENJE, Système scolaire public 2021-2022)
A- Classic secondary education (ESC; enseignement secondaire classique)
The structure of ESC comprises two main levels:
1. Lower secondary years in classic secondary education are the first three years, i.e.grades called 7e, 6e and 5e.
In the first year (grade 7e), syllabi are the same for all pupils. The language of instruction is German, except for mathematics which is taught in French. To help learners with difficulty in the language of instruction, the education system offers specific language-related support and alternatives (see Eurydice article 6.2. - Teaching and learning in general education, as well as 6.10. - Organisational variations and alternative structures).
During the first year (grade 7e), the pupils adapt to the secondary education system.
At the beginning of the 2nd year in ESC (grade 6e), a choice of a third language is being offered: English, Latin or Chinese (in which cases English comes in as a fourth language the following year, i. e. in grade 5e)
2. Upper secondary years of classic secondary education are structured as follows:
- Polyvalent cycle : one year in grade 4, at the end of which students have to settle their individual choice of a specialised section.
The class council (the student's teachers and the school administration), together with the school's Centre for educational and psychosocial follow-up and guidance (CePAS; Centre psycho-social et d'accompagnement scolaires), provides individual written advice on each learner's choice of specialisation. This non-restrictive recommendation is based on all types of information available to the school and its CePAS service
- Specialisation cycle (cycle de spécialisation): in the last three years (grades 3e, 2e and 1ère), students enrol in a specialisation track (section):
- Section A: modern languages
- Section B: mathematics and informatics
- Section C: natural sciences and mathematics
- Section D: economic sciences and mathematics
- Section E: plastic arts
- Section F: musicology
- Section G: human and social sciences
- Section I: informatics and communication
- Section N: entrepreneurship, finance and marketing.
In the framework of their relative management autonomy, schools may offer a varied choice (organisation des sections) in order to meet their learners' personal needs and ambitions.
Upon successful completion of the specialisation cycle and its final examination at the end of grade 1ère, students obtain the classic secondary school leaving diploma.
B- General secondary education (ESG; enseignement secondaire général)
ESG starts with 3 years of lower secondary education (learners aged 12 to 14 years) or, alternatively, modular classes of the preparatory route with a view to getting ready to follow mainstream technical or vocational education.
The general secondary final diploma allows access to higher education. Other pathways in ESG prepare the learners to professional life.
The structure of the educational provision in general secondary education is:
- Lower years of ESG: 3 years in either 'Guidance route' – or, alternatively the 'Preparatory route', which is a modular curriculum aiming at learners' integration into the regular ESG classes
- Upper years of ESG: 4 years in the pathway leading to the general secondary school leaving diploma, which confers the same level of access as the classic secondary school leaving diploma: employment or higher education (at university or elsewhere).
Five divisions are available:
- Administrative and commercial division
- Artistic division
- Hotel trade and tourism division
- Division of health professions and social professions
- General technical division.
Organisation of the school year
The academic year is organised in trimesters or in semesters.
The school year generally starts on 15 September (or the first work day following this date) and ends by 15 July. Beginning and ending dates are defined by a multi-annual grand-ducal regulation (règlement grand-ducal), which also determines the days of school holidays. In principle, at least one holiday week is scheduled every 6 weeks.
Organisation of the school day and week
Classes are held on five or six days a week.
According to the modified law on the organisation of secondary schools (loi modifiée du 25 juin 2004), schools may organise their own timetables, within the legal provisions and subject to the approval of the minister and the school's education council.
A yearly grand-ducal regulation (secondaire classique [ESC] and secondaire général [ESG]) determines the number of lessons per subject, as well as each subject's weighting (coefficient). The number of lessons per week may vary according to the type and level of education.
On the Education ministry's website, the programmes can be downloaded each year for all secondary education types. The archive goes back from today to school year 2007/08.
The duration of a lesson is 50 minutes, as fixed by the ministry.
The table below shows a typical school week:
(Source: Lycée Aline Mayrisch)
The allocated teaching time depends on the type and level of the class, and on the students' personal additional choices. Compulsory teaching time is at minimum 30 lessons a week.
Distribution of lessons per week
The two timetables below show the lessons provided for the 4th grade of secondary education: 4th 'polyvalent' grade in ESC classic secondary (where guidance into sections takes place at the end of the year), and 4th grade in ESG general secondary, where specialisation has already been performed at the end of the preceding year. The subjects' relative weighting is shown by means of their 'coefficient'.
1. Timetable in classic secondary education (ESC)
The different language choices (offered since grade 6e) are shown as Latin (CL) and Chinese (CZH) pathways, alongside the pathway without the additional language (C).
(Source: Portal Education, Classic secondary education for the academic year 2021/2022)
2. Timetable in general secondary education (ESG)
The example below shows the subjects studied in the 4th grade of ESG (section of architecture, design and sustainable development). The study subjects are grouped into different domains: 'languages and mathematics', 'specialisation', 'general education', 'optional subjects'.
(Source: Portal Education, General secondary education for the academic year 2021/2022)