The Grand Duchy's school system places considerable emphasis on language teaching. All children learn Luxembourgish, German, French and English. At fundamental school, pupils learn to read and write in German. A wide range of European and international schools are available for the children of foreign residents.
In early childhood education and during the two years of compulsory pre-school education (cycle 1), teachers use Luxembourgish as much as possible when speaking to their pupils. The prime concern is to develop every child's language ability. For children of foreign origin, school is often the first place in which they are exposed to Luxembourgish.
German is taught from the age of 6 years, in cycle 2.1 of fundamental education, which means that when children learn to read and write, it is in German.
French is integrated into the syllabus of the following year (cycle 2.2). The lingua franca of fundamental education is German.
Exposure to several languages can be a problem for the children of foreign residents. The Ministry of Education provides information on schooling of foreign children. There is also a wide range of European and international schools in the Grand Duchy. French and English are the dominant languages used in these private schools, although German and even Luxembourgish are also taught to some extent.
German is the teaching language in the first years of general secondary education and throughout technical secondary education.
In general secondary education, however, French is the main language from the fourth year of study onwards.
English is a compulsory subject at both types of secondary school. General secondary school pupils may also choose to add Latin, Spanish or Italian.
Language learning over the entire school career accounts for 50% of the curriculum.
One of the fundamental principles of the University of Luxembourg, created in 2003, is the multilingual nature of its teaching. The University’s languages are French, English and German.
Many Luxembourgish students nevertheless continue their studies in German-, French- or English-speaking countries: theoretically, there is no language barrier to stop them!
Is multilingualism an advantage or a factor of failure?
For those students who succeed in the Luxembourg school system, multilingualism undoubtedly constitutes an important asset. It is also, nevertheless, a factor of failure for some young people, as deficiency in any one of the country's languages reduces their prospects for training and a future. The children of immigrants are the most affected by this.
Since the years of mass immigration, school attendance has been made compulsory from the age of four, whereas it used to be from the age of five.
The main purpose of this is to expose immigrants' children to Luxembourgish at as early an age as possible; a further addition is early childhood education for children from the age of three.