Languages are the big filter in Luxembourg's school system. Many pupils cram history, biology and maths with one eye on the dictionary. Even if alphabetisation in French were to become a complete success, representing an important step towards equal opportunities, it remains a first step from which further learning can take place.
"We have to ask ourselves the honest question of how much multilingualism we really need and at what level … and what price it comes at." Charel Schmit, ombudsman for children and young people, does not hesitate to make clear statements about the language requirements for pupils: Trilingualism, which is not something our pupils are born with, is the academic undoing of many.
The composition of Luxembourg's student body poses enormous linguistic challenges for educational institutions: 111,485 children attended our primary and secondary schools in the 2022/23 school year. In order to succeed in primary and secondary school, they all – with a few exceptions – have to speak at least French and German at a very high level. This is in contrast to their first languages: In secondary education, 36 per cent of them have Luxembourgish as their first language, 26 per cent Portuguese, 12 per cent French and 15 per cent "other". You can find the exact statistics here. The distribution in primary school is still similar.
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