Compulsory school age to be raised from 16 to 18

A third of school drop-outs are aged 16 to 18, education minister Claude Meisch said, prompting the government to raise the compulsory school age Photo: SIP/Julien Warnand

A third of school drop-outs are aged 16 to 18, education minister Claude Meisch said, prompting the government to raise the compulsory school age Photo: SIP/Julien Warnand

Luxembourg will lift its compulsory school age from 16 to 18 as a result of the pandemic, which has worsened education gaps and increased the risk of pupils dropping out without a qualification, education minister Claude Meisch has said.

The start of the 2021-2022 school year will be the second since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic. Meisch (DP) on Monday presented a series of measures to combat learning gaps among pupils caused by lockdown and distance learning.

Among them is the extension of the compulsory school age from 16 to 18 years. This is an important tool for preventing drop-outs, said Claude Meisch, given that one third of students who leave school without a qualification are aged between 16 and 18. At the same time employers are increasingly looking for highly qualified staff, decreasing the chances of drop-outs, Meisch said. A draft law will be tabled in autumn.

Another instrument that was intended to prevent the exclusion of certain pupils after the pandemic is summer school. It was introduced in September 2020 to help students fill in the gaps during the summer holidays and will be continued. According to the ministry, it has been a great success: 5,500 primary school pupils and 1,770 secondary school pupils went to summer school in 2021.

Learning to code

The ministry has also set about combating another factor in the increase in inequality: the digital divide. The digital divide is now synonymous with social injustice, said Meisch. And Luxembourg is experiencing a major shortage of qualified people in the IT sector, prompting a focus on digital skills.

At the start of the 2020 school year, coding lessons were already available to all classes in cycle 4 of primary education. From now on, it will be introduced among the youngest learners in cycles 1 to 3. And, from 2022-2023, coding will be part of the skills assessed in cycle 4 during the standardised mathematics tests.

Of course, for such young pupils, “it is not a question of learning computer programming in the strict sense, but of developing digital thinking in the broadest sense,” said Meisch.

In addition, from the beginning of the school year, a 'digital science' course will gradually be integrated into all classes below general secondary education, at the rate of one lesson per week (36 hours per year). Eighteen secondary schools will integrate the programme from this year onwards in the 7th year classes. The aim is to extend it to the whole of traditional and general secondary education. "By 2024-2025, all classes of 7th, 6th and 5th grade will benefit from the digital science course," said Meisch.

Teaching entrepreneurship

A new training space will also open in November 2021 in the Terres Rouges building in Belval: the Digital Learning Hub (DLH). It will offer four areas of continued professional training, particularly in blockchain, cybersecurity and coding, which will be open to young people without a diploma, jobseekers or digital professionals over 18 years of age.

The minister also recalled the efforts made in terms of diversifying the educational offer. The network of European schools--until now four in number--will be extended, he announced, with a new school in Mersch as of this autumn and another in Luxembourg City in 2022.

Meisch also announced that the “Ecole de commerce et de gestion” (ECG) will offer a section on 'entrepreneurship, finance and marketing' from 2022-2023. This will follow the creation, at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, of 'finance' sections in general secondary education.

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.