Minister of education Claude Meisch (DP) on 22 February presented the project to extend compulsory schooling from 16 to 18 years, approved by the government council on 11 February.
By raising the mandatory minimum to reach, the grand duchy hopes to encourage students to finish school. In 2020-2021, 647 youths under 18 had dropped out of school, and only 12% had made it into the job market. The additional years should allow students to receive alternative training or to make peace with the school system, according to a press release sent out by the ministry. “Many school drop-outs do not reject school, but rather feel that school rejects them,” said Meisch.
184 children study at home
According to the latest figures published by the education ministry in March 2021 for the 2020-2021 school year, 154 pupils in primary education (aged 3 to 11) are taught at home, compared with 50,890 children attending a school. This represents an increase of 37 children compared to 2019-2020. 30 students in secondary education (aged 12 to 19) were home-schooled.
The reasons for home schooling can be diverse: a child with an illness, families visiting the country, or down to the conviction of the parents. "For young people aged 4 to 12 years old on 1 September , home schooling can take place. At present, permission must be sought from the director of the district in question, stating the reasons for the request, and the commune must be informed,” explains the Luxembourg association for freedom of instruction (Alli) on its website. For those over 12 years old home schooling is not regulated by any law. In practice, it is necessary to provide a school certificate of a correspondence course to the commune, or to inform the ministry of education. A bill on home education exists, though it has not yet been submitted to the Chamber of Deputies.
Home schooling subject to controls
In its activity report for the year 2020-2021, Alli explains that it has had "some enquiries about home schooling because of the unsuitable sanitary conditions for families. No doubt there has been an increase in requests, as families have been able to know and experience this educational choice and reflect on it."
Do parents who home school have to follow the Luxembourg curriculum though? According to Article 21 (basic/primary education), "home schooling must be aimed at the acquisition of the basic skills defined by the study plan. In duly justified circumstances, in particular, for example, if the parents intend to introduce distance learning for their child, the district director may grant an exemption from teaching one or other of the subjects provided for in article 7 of the school law.”
The association notes that “aiming for the acquisition of the basic skills defined in the study plan does not mean that it is compulsory to achieve them, but that the child must be given the opportunity to achieve them, because he or she has the right to education, but no one can be forced to learn.” Home schooling is therefore subject to the control of the director of its district. If it is found that the education provided does not meet the defined criteria, the pupil is automatically enrolled in the school of his or her commune of residence. The same applies if the parent refuses to let the director carry out an inspection.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.