Luxembourg’s Historical Foundations
Due to its geographic location and small territory size, the land that is now the independent country of Luxembourg was traded back and forth between the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Full independence was attained in 1867, after losing over half of its territory to Belgium in 1839. Until 1841, Luxembourg had two school systems, with one in the capital and one in surrounding areas. Luxembourg’s first constitution was enacted in 1841, and the first school law was instated in 1843. Because of years of influence from neighboring nations, the Luxembourg school law was a product of input from various stakeholders. This school law was heavily influenced by French, Belgian, and Batavian (modern-day Dutch) school laws.
The Luxembourgish government chose certain elements of these existing school systems that could be applied to their cultural context. After the French Revolution, the southern area of the Netherlands, including what is now Luxembourg, became a part of the French Republic. The result in Luxembourg, following the French movement away from the traditional regime, was a centralized and secular educational system. Prior to 1795, the Church held a strong role in Luxembourg education, but lost its influence and power to the state due to French secular tradition (Thyseen, 2013, p. 627).
Overall, the 1843 Luxembourg school law is found to most resemble to the pre-existing Belgian school laws. However, this law was also strongly influenced by Dutch schooling and the French school law of 1833 in particular. The provisions for education were modeled primarily from the Dutch law, creating a distinction between publicly funded schools and private schools often religiously affiliated. The supervision of education was most closely related to the Belgian law, with official oversight delegated to the state, and religious supervision left to the clergy. The Luxembourg school law most closely follows French education in administrative and pedagogical components, such as the provision of schooling and the curriculum. The curriculum, as dictated by the school law of 1843 and in French law, placed religion as the most important subject, making a clear distinction between religion and morality. Religion was then followed by reading and writing, French language, and math, in order of importance. During the creation of the curriculum in Luxembourg, there was much conflict over the inclusion of French as a required subject. Defenders of this requirement cited the frequent relations between Luxembourg and France, and students’ future career opportunities in France. In the final law, Luxembourg gave German and French equal importance in administration as in education. French was considered to the be the intellectual language, while German was the language of the Church. This occurred during a time of much debate over the influence and scope of religion in education.
The Luxembourg law overall expressed ideals of a secular, centralized system, with some mention of provision of free schooling for indigent children. However, as in the French law, the original Luxembourg school law made no official stipulation for compulsory education or school attendance (Thyseen, 2013, p. 634).
Luxembourg: The Ideal Student
With the School Law of 2009, Luxembourg underwent major primary education reform,
resulting in a large-scale restructuring of their academic cycles and a switch to student outcome and goal oriented teaching methods. The education law of February 6th, 2009 stated that the objective of education was in part to allow students to acquire general culture, exercise their responsibility as citizens, and prepare for professional life. School was mandated to educate them on ethical values and encourage them to respect the equality of girls and boys. The role of the school is said to contribute to the promotion of a democratic society based on the ideas of social cohesion and the development of a competitive economy (UNESCO, 2012, p. 2). As demonstrated by the high proportion of technical and vocational schooling integrated into the Luxembourg schooling system, it is evident that the ideal student of this nation is one with practical knowledge and skills. The ideal student would be a trilingual student, capable of solving problems at school and in real life, and be aware of their responsibility as a democratic citizen in Luxembourg society (UNESCO, 2012, p. 2).
Thyseen, Geert (2013). The stranger within: Luxembourg’s early school system as a European prototype of nationally legitimized international blends (ca. 1974-1844). Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, 49:5, 625-644
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Bureau of Education. (2012). World data on education: Luxembourg (VII Ed. 2010/11). Paris: OECD.