"Who likes to say my child is a school repeater?"

By Jang KapgenLex KlerenMisch Pautsch

High School is supposed to be a place of supportive and encouraging learning. But how does this look like in reality? Lëtzebuerger Journal interviewed four different school repeaters about their experience in the Luxembourgish school system. Their stories are marked by courage and resilience – and thought-out criticism.

If the topic of school repeaters is mentioned, many stereotypes guide the discussion. From lazy to inattentive to carefree, many negative misconceptions are connected to their image. The perspective of school repeaters themselves, however, is often not considered. While only four interviews are within this article, several other school repeaters were interviewed for background research. The overwhelming message is: They care. While opinions on the helpfulness of an extra year diverge, there is a visible notion going around – a feeling of a year of their lives stolen from them. School repeaters are often left out of important discussions on Luxembourg’s education system – even though it is exactly them who are affected the most by the system. So, let’s listen to their stories.

Is the system fair?

Veronique is now 20 years old. Her passion is making music, she is part of several orchestras and plans on studying something along these lines too. She describes herself as a quite regular student. “You have some grades up to 50 and others around 38, but you can’t be perfect everywhere”, she explains her usual grades. To her own surprise, it happened that she had to retake the level 5ième. While her yearly average was around 42 at the time, she had insufficient grades in two main subjects: a 29 in English and a 27 in French. While these subjects were not her strengths, the teachers of that year were a bit more demanding – the average of the whole class was lower as in previous years. But this is all understandable, as Veronique knows herself, that every teacher has slightly different expectations on the student’s performances. However, through the bonus point system at the end of each trimester, she noticed the subjective and unfair nature of it all.

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Invisible grief