European Education Area Progress Report 2020

Education and Training Monitor 2020


1. Key indicators

Figure 1 – Key indicators overview
Luxembourg EU-27
2009 2019 2009 2019
Education and training 2020 benchmarks
Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24) 7.7% 7.5% 14.0% 10.2%
Tertiary educational attainment (age 30-34) 46.6% 56.2% 31.1% 40.3%
Early childhood education
(from age 4 to starting age of compulsory primary education)
94.6% 96.1%18 90.3% 94.8%18
Proportion of 15 year-olds underachieving in: Reading 26.2% 29.3%18 19.3% 22.5%18
Maths 23.9% 27.2%18 22.2% 22.9%18
Science 23.7% 26.8%18 17.8% 22.3%18
Employment rate of recent graduates by educational attainment (age 20-34 having left education 1-3 years before reference year) ISCED 3-8 (total) 85.5% 89.4% 78.0% 80.9%
Adult participation in learning (age 25-64) ISCED 0-8 (total) 13.8% 19.1% 7.9% 10.8%b
Learning mobility Degree mobile graduates (ISCED 5-8) : 74.1%18 : 4.3%18
Credit mobile graduates (ISCED 5-8) : 12.7%18 : 9.1%18
Other contextual indicators
Education investment Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP 5.5% 4.6% 18 5.1% 4.6%18
Expenditure on public and private institutions per student in € PPS ISCED 1-2 €15 05012 €13 59316 €6 072d, 12 €6 240d, 16
ISCED 3-4 €15 16912 €15 11816 :12 €7 757d, 16
ISCED 5-8 : 12 €35 74416 €9 679d, 12 €9 977d, 16
Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24) Native-born 5.4% 6.8% 12.6% 8.9%
Foreign-born 13.4% 8.1% 29.3% 22.2%
Tertiary educational attainment (age 30-34) Native-born 36.5% 43.5% 32.0% 41.3%
Foreign-born 54.4% 63.1% 25.1% 35.3%
Employment rate of recent graduates by educational attainment (age 20-34 having left education 1-3 years before reference year) ISCED 3-4 79.3% 78.2% 72.2% 75.9%
ISCED 5-8 90.4% 94.2% 83.7% 85.0%

Source: Eurostat; OECD (PISA); Learning mobility figures are calculated by DG EAC, based on UOE 2018 data. Further information can be found in Annex I and in Volume 1 ( Notes: The 2018 EU average on PISA reading performance does not include ES; b = break in time series; d = definition differs; u = low reliability; : = not available; 12 = 2012, 16 = 2016, 17 = 2017, 18 = 2018.

Figure 2 - Position in relation to strongest and weakest performers

Source: DG EAC, based on data from Eurostat (LFS 2019, UOE 2018) and OECD (PISA 2018).

2. Highlights

  • Recent measures aim to strengthen digital education.
  • There is still a large proportion of underachievers in a highly diverse school population.
  • Vocational education and training graduates enjoy excellent employment prospects.
  • Luxembourg has further increased investment in higher education.

3. A focus on digital education

Luxembourg has launched a strategy to boost digital skills. According to the 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), 72% of young people (aged 16-19) report that they have at least basic digital skills, which is below the EU-27 average (82%). 51% of this age group claims to have advanced internet user skills, putting Luxembourg in 19th place in the ranking. As regards information and communication technology (ICT) graduates, Luxembourg exceeds the EU-27 average at 5.8 %. In 2015, the government launched the Digital4Education strategy to boost young people’s digital skills. This covers a wide range of actions and options, such as raising cybersecurity awareness, makerspaces where high school students are free to experiment with 3D printers, and free access to the MS Office suite for teachers and to digital classrooms.

Luxembourg students' average scores in computer and information literacy (CIL) are below the EU average. The 2018 International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) assessed the capacities of students in eighth grade (around the age of 14) to use ICT productively for a range of purposes. Despite its high level of ICT infrastructure, Luxembourg is one of two participating EU countries where more than half of the pupils did not reach the level 2 proficiency threshold (Figure 3). Luxembourg also had the highest within-country variation in score between the bottom 5% and the top 5% (277 points). In comparison, the average difference across EU Member States in ICILS 2018 was 92 points.

Figure 3 - Share of underachievers in CIL proficiency (%), 2018

Source: IEA, ICILS 2013 and ICILS 2018.

Changes in the curriculum are intended to enhance digital competences. In 2017, a new specialisation in ICT was introduced in upper secondary education, as part of a new label for schools called ‘Future hub’; this serves to raise the profile of secondary schools that are innovative in ICT. In the study programme for initial teacher education, the use of ICT is one of nine areas in the teacher competence framework. As of 2020-2021, coding will be embedded in mathematics classes in cycle 4 (age 10-11) and from 2021-2022 it will be taught across all subjects in cycles 1 to 3 (age 4-9). Teachers will receive training and support from specialised teachers, to be recruited in 2020. In secondary education, computer science will appear as a new subject in 2021-2022, and will include coding and computational thinking. The government expects that the 2023 ICILS study will already reflect the impact of these measures.

Box 1: European Social Funds project CODEKLASS

Project leader: Ministry of National Education, Children and Youth

Total budget: EUR 152 512 (ESF: 50%)

Duration: 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2020

CODEKLASS offers a two-week training programme, ‘CodeStart’, for young people aged 18 to 29 from all academic backgrounds and employment situations: students, school dropouts, and people in employment or looking for a job. Participants learn how to develop web pages and create a mobile game while gaining insights into the importance of digital skills for their future studies and careers. This programme ran in 2019 and 2020, and will be integrated into the regular offer of the Adult Training Service. The courses will be delivered nine times over two years, each consisting of 60 hours of training for 20-25 participants.

4. Investing in education and training

Public expenditure on education is above the EU average and was further increased to support parents during the school closure period. Public expenditure on primary to tertiary education per student expressed in purchasing power standards was the highest in the EU in 2016 (the last year for which data is available), at 14 987.6 (followed by Austria with 10 872.9). Public expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP is not a reliable indicator, because cross‐border workers and foreign capital invested in Luxembourg make a significant contribution to the country’s GDP. Measured as a percentage of the total public budget, Luxembourg spent 11% on education in 2018, against an EU-27 average of 9.9%. Teachers’ statutory salaries, which represent 68.6% of education expenditure, are twice as high as salaries of other tertiary graduates (OECD 2019). As part of the COVID-19 measures, the government ordered the closure of all schools and childcare facilities for an extended period of time. In order to allow parents to take care of their children, special leave for family reasons was introduced. The budgeted amount for this was estimated at EUR 222 million, depending on the length of the closure of educational institutions (Government 2020).

The school population is growing and becoming ever more diverse. Between 2009 and 2019, the school-age population (4-16 years old) increased by 9.81%1. According to Eurostat projections, it is expected to further increase by 2.98% by 20302 compared with 2020. In the 2019-2020 school year, pupils with Luxembourgish as their first language became the minority both in primary (34.5%) and secondary education (41.1%) (MENJE 2019). The exceptionally high cultural and linguistic diversity represents particular challenges to the school system.

5. Modernising early childhood and school education

Action to improve access to and the quality of early childhood education (ECE) may help level out development gaps. Luxembourg has invested heavily in extending access to early childhood education and non-formal day-care facilities in the last 10 years, nearly tripling the number of places and doubling the availability of child minders (Neumann 2018). Compulsory education starts with two years of pre-school from age 4, which can be supplemented with an optional year from age 3. 96.1% of children aged 4-6 participate in ECE, above the EU average (94.8%). In 2018, 60.5% of children under 3 attended ECE (EU average: 34.7%), the second highest rate in the EU. In 2016, the Youth Act established national quality standards in ECE which all providers had to comply with by September 2017 in order to be eligible for the state co-financing scheme (chèque-service accueil). This includes activities to familiarise children aged 1-4 with Luxembourgish and French. Childcare vouchers give parents reduced rates at crèches, after-school centres, mini-crèches and day-care centres. In 2019, the childcare system was extended to include a new type of institution, mini-crèches. These are small-scale day-care centres for children aged 0-12 years that look after a maximum of 11 children. Free high quality ECE should help to reduce educational inequalities and improve learning outcomes.

Pupils’ basic skills are below the EU average and strongly linked to socio-economic status. Luxembourg’s average levels of competence, as measured in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), were lower in 2018 than in 2015 and 2012 in reading and science but stable in mathematics. They were all significantly lower than the EU averages. The proportion of low achievers is well above the EU average in all three areas tested: 27.2% in mathematics, 29.3% in reading and 26.8% in science, compared to 22.9%, 22.5% and 22.3% respectively at EU-27 level. The proportion of top achievers for each subject is slightly lower than the EU average. Girls outperform boys by 29 score points in reading, which corresponds to the EU average (28 score points). The gap in performance between the highest and lowest-achieving students in Luxembourg has widened in both reading and mathematics since 2003. In 2018, advantaged students scored 122 points higher than their disadvantaged peers, the largest such gap observed across all EU countries (Figure 4). Only 1% of disadvantaged students performed at the top levels (5 or 6), against the EU-27 average of 2.5%.

Figure 4 - Low and top performers in reading, maths, science in PISA between 2012 and 2018

Source: OECD (2019), PISA 2018.

Immigrant status is a strong predictor of performance but less important than socio-economic background. Students with a migrant background scored 35 points lower than native-born students in reading. This gap is reduced by half after accounting for students’ gender and socio-economic profile and between-school difference. Students born in Luxembourg to parents born abroad are not catching up with their non-immigrant peers. On the positive side, the reading performance of students with a migrant background has improved significantly since 2009. Students with lower socio-economic status are the most likely to fall behind in all subjects and to be steered towards the technical tracks of secondary school. Socio-economic status is also the factor that has the biggest impact on pupil’s performance in national surveys: more than half the pupils in the bottom quarter of the socio-economic scale perform below the basic level (niveau socle) in third grade, and the proportion that fail to achieve the basic level (level 2, L2) by ninth grade drops much less than among their counterparts in the top quarter, irrespective of their mother tongue (Sonnleitner et al. 2018).

Early school leaving remains below the EU average. The rate of early leavers from education and training was 7.2% in 2019. This is significantly below the EU average of 10.2%, but the figure should be interpreted with caution because of the limited sample size. National estimates based on the actual number of young people not completing upper secondary education indicate that early school leaving has been on the rise since 2009 and stood at 12.4% in 2016 (MENJE 2018a). The Education Ministry’s Local Action for Youth offices are responsible for identifying early school leavers, contacting them and helping them return to education or find a job. A School Mediation Service was created in 2018 to examine cases of pupils at risk of dropping-out, pupils with special educational needs, and pupils born abroad, who started their school career outside Luxembourg and do not have the necessary skills in German, Luxembourgish or French to follow regular education. In 2019, the proportion of 20-34 year-olds who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) was 8.1% (EU-27 average: 16.4%).

Grade repetition is common and is strongly linked to early school leaving. About 20% of pupils have repeated a year by the third grade of primary school (MENJE 2018b); by the end of secondary education, this applies to 60%. Grade repetition is particularly high among pupils in technical secondary education (enseignement secondaire général, ESG), where 77% of final grade pupils will have repeated a year at least once (MENJE 2018b). In the academic track of secondary education (enseignement secondaire classique, ESC), the proportion is lower, but still significant (33%). Failing two years in the course of one’s studies is the clearest predictor of early school leaving (MENJE 2017a). As of 2017-2018, the number of subjects covered for the upper secondary school leaving certificate in ESC was reduced, to allow pupils to focus on those that match their further study plans. As of 2018-2019, similar arrangements were introduced in ESG. This may improve the final results and completion rates of secondary education.

Pupils’ performance is heavily influenced by their ability to cope with the trilingual system. The vernacular language at primary level is Luxembourgish, while pupils learn to read and write in German. All subjects (except French) are taught in German. While the main teaching language in technical secondary education remains German, in the upper grades mathematics is taught in French, which is the language of the final exam. In academic secondary education, the teaching language switches from German to French in seventh grade for mathematics and in tenth grade for other subjects. This system is challenging for all, but especially for pupils who speak a language other than Luxembourgish at home. There is scientific evidence3 that reading and numeracy skills develop best when they are acquired in the mother tongue. From 2018-2019, the teaching of French, German, English and mathematics has been adapted to pupils’ competence in ESG. Depending on their results at the end of the first year, pupils follow these subjects either all at basic or all at advanced level in their 2nd and 3rd years. Thereafter, pupils are streamed into the different tracks of upper secondary education.

Teachers and families received significant support during the school closure linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. A national learning platform ‘’ was created to provide digital learning materials, daily refreshed with new content. This platform provides educational material for primary and secondary education, links to interesting platforms, online challenges in various topics, links to helplines, etc. A second website called ‘’ provided recreational materials and ideas for non-formal learning, games and leisure activities for limited home spaces. In primary school, teachers provided pupils with a work plan and learning materials. Secondary school teachers gave regular assignments and feedback to their pupils in languages, mathematics and their specialisation subjects. Following the re-opening on 25 May, pupils revised the work done during the lockdown with their teachers. To reward pupils' participation in distance learning, teachers could add a bonus of 1 to 4 points to the average mark in each subject. Parents were allowed to take leave for family reasons if they had to look after children under 13 during the closure of their school or childcare facility.

2020 examinations and the new school year were adapted to the exceptional circumstances. The end-of-primary national tests, which form the basis of the orientation for secondary education, were cancelled. Instead, the orientation decision was based on pupils’ performance during cycle 4 (fifth and sixth grade). Orientation interviews, where the class teacher and parents reach a joint orientation decision, were maintained. For pupils moving on to the next (two-year) cycle of learning, an end-of-cycle evaluation was drawn up at the end of the school year. Secondary school leaving exams started on June 25, in line with the original schedule. To give each student a fair chance of passing the final year, the examination questions focussed exclusively on the content covered in class before the start of the school closure. In July, the Minister of Education announced specific measures to reduce pupils’ deficit linked to the lockdown (MENJE 2020). All pupils were offered a two-week catch-up session before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, and additional coaching sessions will be offered during the first trimester for pupils who lag behind.

Since 2018, more flexible entry requirements for the recruitment competition for early childhood and primary education teachers have attracted more candidates. Despite the high salaries - double the average salaries of other tertiary graduates - Luxembourg faces a shortage of teachers. This is partly linked to the requirement to demonstrate a command of the three official languages. In 2018, the conditions for applying for the primary education recruitment competition were relaxed with respect to the choice of age groups to teach. This led to a sharp increase in the number of candidates. The number of recently graduated candidates more than doubled. New features included the possibility to apply with a qualification for cycle 1 (pre-school) only or for cycles 2-4 (primary education), as well as with a qualification for all cycles (1-4). Also, in 2018/2019, the amended Primary Education Act (Government 2018a) allowed candidates with a bachelor’s degree in programmes related to primary education to be recruited as temporary teachers. In 2016/2017, one in four primary and secondary teachers had a temporary contract. When schools reopened on 25 May, classes were split to have no more than 10 children in a room at a time. Pupils were attending school only every second week; the other week they repeated the material learnt either at home or in childcare. The Ministry of Education launched a call for 500 additional primary school teachers to cover the corresponding increase in demand, to which 1 000 candidates responded.

Box 2: Towards a more inclusive education for children with disabilities

The policy on children with disabilities has been changing rapidly. At present, 1.24% of primary and lower secondary school pupils are recorded as having special educational needs (SEN), of whom 38% are in inclusive school settings (MENJE 2020). Following Luxembourg’s 2011 ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD), numerous measures were introduced in the education sector. In 2017, the government started giving extra financial support to early childhood education and care (ECEC) services committed to following the inclusive ECEC concept (secteur de l’éducation et de l’accueil – inclusif, SEA) (MENJE 2020). In May 2017, a new law specified that each two-year cycle can be extended by one year where learning difficulties exist.

The 2017 law reorganised the care of children with special needs based on a three-level approach: national, regional and local (Government 2017). At local level, specialised teachers support primary schools in implementing adapted teaching. In 2016-2017, some 150 specialised teacher posts were created, two-thirds of which had been filled by 2019 (MENJE 2020). These specialist teachers assist pupils in the classroom. They liaise with parents and the regional inclusion commission. Their mission is to coordinate and contribute to the schooling of SEN pupils. They also participate in drawing up the school development plan with regard to the care of SEN pupils. At regional level, support teams were created (Équipes de soutien des élèves à besoins éducatifs particuliers ou spécifiques, ESEB) to take over whenever the local care is not sufficient. At national level, a law in July 2018 introduced nine specialised centres for children with special needs. These provide a specialised diagnostic evaluation for every child referred. Specialised staff support pupils and teachers in regular education. The centres also organise training workshops for school leaders and teaching staff. A special subsidy exists for schools to finance `reasonable´ adaptations for disabled pupils. Additionally, a national inclusion commission was set up as a reference authority for professionals, institutions, and parents. The decision as to how a child is to participate in education stays with the parents.

The 2018-2023 government programme requires a support team for SEN pupils to be created in each secondary school. Currently, some 30 support staff assist 18 secondary schools (MENJE 2020). The programme also required an action plan to be drafted to implement the UN-CRPD; it was published in 2019 (Plan d’action national 2019-2024 de mise en oeuvre de la Convention de l’ONU relative aux droits des personnes handicapées). The plan lists 97 actions with indicators and a timetable, as a basis for evaluation.

In higher education, inclusion of students with disabilities has been regulated by law since the 2018 University Act, which provides for `reasonable´ adaptations of the course structure and duration for students with special needs (Government 2018).

6. Modernising vocational education and training

Vocational education and training (VET) graduates continue to enjoy excellent employment prospects. The employment rate among recent VET graduates is 100% (EU average: 79.1%). This data needs to be treated with caution because of the small size of the sample. Key sectors, including finance and ICT, face labour shortages and skills mismatches. 71% of enterprises who recruited or tried to recruit ICT specialists in 2017 reported having had hard-to-fill vacancies, significantly above the EU average of 53% (DESI 2019). A digital skills and jobs coalition4 with public and private stakeholders aims to promote digital skills initiatives.

In 2019, the Labour Code and the 2008 Act reforming vocational training were amended to make vocational training more attractive and effective (Government 2019). In agreement with the professional chambers, the reform introduces technical adaptations to improve the quality of vocational training. These include allowing learners who do not manage to complete their course within the normal training period to extend their apprenticeship phase by up to two years, and the introduction of ‘on-the-job’ vocational training allowing employees without certification for their trade or profession to complete training in parallel with their job and to obtain a qualification. In 2019-2020, a new form of end-of-term assessment was introduced, with a separate mark for each module. If a student fails a module, they can catch up later without having to repeat the whole year (MENJE 2019c). In 2019-2020, apprentices were exempted from the second semester modules because of the special circumstances.

7. Modernising higher education

Luxembourg has set itself the target of raising the tertiary attainment rate among 30‑34 year-olds to 66% by 2020. In 2019, the rate stood at 56.2% (EU-27: 40.3%), the third highest in the EU, but well below the national target. This is partly thanks to the high proportion of graduates in the migrant population (63.1%, as compared with 43.5% of native Luxembourgers). In 2017, Luxembourg had the second largest proportion of international graduates5 in the EU at master’s (43%) and doctoral level (167%). Study programmes are bilingual, trilingual (French, German, English) or entirely in English. The employment rate of recent tertiary graduates in 2019 was 94.2%, well above the EU average of 85.0%, reflecting strong demand for highly skilled workers. Tertiary graduates also enjoy a higher wage premium than their counterparts elsewhere in the EU (OECD 2017).

The University of Luxembourg will launch new bachelor programmes in engineering, medicine, physics, and mathematics as of September 2020. These programmes have evolved from existing study tracks, after being redesigned as full bachelor programmes. They respond to an increasing demand for a skilled workforce in data science, analytical reasoning, computational science, engineering and medicine. Medical studies are supported by enhanced inter-university cooperation at medical master’s level, guaranteed by a specific protocol signed with France. In light of the special circumstances linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the enrolment process for 2020-2021 was fully digitalised and simplified. Application deadlines for non-EU students were extended.

8. Promoting adult learning

Overall participation in the labour market and adult learning is high, but lower among low-skilled and older workers. 19.1% of adults surveyed participated in learning, against an EU average of 10.8%. Participation is much less common among low-skilled workers (6.8%), increasing the risk of their skills becoming outdated and their ending up in early retirement. The employment rate among older workers (55-64 years) remained particularly low (43.1%) in 2019, against an EU average of 59.1%. In its coalition agreement, the government undertook to promote the quality of lifelong learning by introducing a personal training account and training vouchers allowing all employees to follow basic training for digitised professions for free. In June 2019, it was announced that a new quality assurance agency was to be set up (MENJE 2019d).

9. References

Deloitte et al. 2019, 2nd Survey of Schools: ICT in Education,

Government 2017 : Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Luxembourg launches its Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Lëtzebuerg,

Government 2018 : Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Loi du 27 juin 2018 ayant pour objet l’organisation de l’Université du Luxembourg,

Government 2019 : Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Loi du 12 juillet 2019 portant modification 1° du Code du travail; 2° de la loi modifiée du 31 juillet 2006 portant introduction d’un Code du Travail; 3° de la loi modifiée du 19 décembre 2008 portant réforme de la formation professionnelle,

Government 2020: Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Stability and Growth Programme 2020,

MENJE 2019a: Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enfance et de la Jeunesse, Statistiques globales et analyse des résultats scolaires - Enseignement fondamental - 2016-2018,

MENJE 2019b: Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enfance et de la Jeunesse, Plan d’action national 2019-2024 de mise en oeuvre de la Convention de l’ONU relative aux droits des personnes handicapées,

MENJE 2019c: Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enfance et de la Jeunesse, Evaluation chiffrée, fondée sur les compétences,

MENJE 2019d: Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enfance et de la Jeunesse, Formation professionnelle: un engagement pour la qualité,

MENJE 2020: Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enfance et de la Jeunesse, Renforcer les jeunes au temps du COVID-19,

MESR 2018 : Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche (2018), Programme gouvernemental: Enseignement supérieur,

Neumann, S. 2018, Non-formale Bildung im Vorschulalter, University of Luxembourg — Service de coordination de la recherche et de l’innovation pédagogique et technologique, Nationaler Bildungsbericht 2018,

OECD 2019, Education at a Glance,

Statnews, No 23, 11/07/18, 77% des adultes se forment, [Accessed: 13 April 2020].

Annex I: Key indicators sources

Indicator Eurostat online data code
Early leavers from education and training edat_lfse_14 + edat_lfse_02
Tertiary educational attainment edat_lfse_03 + edat_lfs_9912
Early childhood education educ_uoe_enra10
Underachievement in reading, maths and science OECD (PISA)
Employment rate of recent graduates edat_lfse_24
Adult participation in learning trng_lfse_03
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP gov_10a_exp
Expenditure on public and private institutions per student educ_uoe_fini04
Learning mobility:
- Degree-mobile graduates
- Credit-mobile graduates
DG EAC computation based on Eurostat / UIS / OECD data

Annex II: Structure of the education system

Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2020. The Structure of the European Education Systems 2019/2020: Schematic Diagrams. Eurydice Facts and Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

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1 [demo_pjan]

2 [proj_19np] Extracted on 15.09.2020.

3 Thomas and Collier examined the records of 700 000 language minority students, speaking dozens of home languages, in five school systems between 1985 and 2001. They found that the strongest predictor of learner success at upper secondary level in the dominant (English) language education system was the number of early years of instruction the learners had received in their mother tongue.


5 Inward degree mobility rates are computed as inward degree–mobile graduates as a percentage of graduates originating in the country.