Luxembourg is a cosmopolitan society, with multiple languages spoken on a daily basis among residents, expatriate communities and cross-border workers. So it is only natural that Luxembourg's education system also gives pupils the opportunity to grow and learn in a multilingual environment from their very early years.
Languages and the way they work in the education system
Multilingualism in schools in Luxembourg represents a strength in an open, diversified world, but also a challenge for pupils with different linguistic backgrounds. The Luxembourg education system is mainly based on German and French. German is the language of instruction at primary school and for the first years of secondary school, while French is used to teach most subjects in the upper years of secondary school. But Luxembourg is also pursuing a policy to diversify its school options, offering international French- and English-speaking classes, welcome classes and a system of intercultural mediators.
Primary education: learning the administrative languages
Primary education in Luxembourg is composed of four two-year cycles. In the first cycle (children aged 3 to 5), the curriculum places strong emphasis on learning Luxembourgish. Following the adoption of a programme for multilingual education in crèches (nurseries), familiarising children with French is now also one of the objectives of the first cycle of schooling.
In the subsequent cycles (ages 6-12), literacy is taught in German, which is also the language of instruction for all other subjects except French lessons. Pupils are taught spoken French in the second cycle and written French in the third cycle.
Secondary school: language diversification
The use of languages in the secondary education curriculum varies according to the chosen system, but language learning continues to play a central role. German remains the language of instruction in the first years of secondary school in all subjects apart from French and maths.
French becomes the language of instruction in classical secondary education from the fourth year. English is taught from the second year to all pupils except those in the Latin section, who start English one year later. Pupils who wish to do so can add a fourth modern language like Italian, Spanish or Portuguese from their fifth year.
In general secondary education, German mostly remains the language of instruction, with some exceptions (certain subjects, classes with a specific language regime, etc.).
Welcoming children in their language(s)
Given the multilingual population in Luxembourg, it is not unusual to see pupils who do not speak any of the country's three administrative languages joining the educational system. For these pupils, Luxembourg's secondary schools offer specific programmes, including intensive tutoring in French or German, classes taught in French, welcome and integration classes, as well as classes for English speakers.
Alongside Luxembourg's mainstream public schools, there are also international schools, open to all pupils at primary or secondary level without fees, which prepare pupils for an International Baccalaureate in French, English or German. Some of these schools also offer classes at preschool level.
Finally, private international schools also offer multilingual education. At these schools, Luxembourgish is taught to all pupils as a foreign language.
Find out more about all the available school options here.
An international university
Multilingualism is one of the key principles of the University of Luxembourg. The teaching languages are generally French and German. Some study programmes also require a good command of English, and the University offers a programme in Luxembourgish Linguistics and Literature.
Did you know?
A pilot project was launched at the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year in four primary schools to give pupils the possibility of learning to read and write in French. Literacy in French is optional for pupils in cycles 1 and 2. The aim of the project is to improve pupils' chances of success by offering a flexible, diverse approach to language learning. More details about the programme can be found in the magazine EDI (no. 2 – 2022) published by the Luxembourg Ministry of Education, Children and Youth.