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Luxembourg, or its official name, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small sovereign country in Western Europe, with a total geographic area of 998 square miles. A landlocked country, it is surrounded entirely by Belgium, France and Germany, and has two principal regions: the Oesling, considered part of the Adrennes massif in the north, and the Gutland, a word that translates to “good country” in the south. The world’s only remaining sovereign grand duchy, Luxembourg is a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, and the country is ruled by a grand duke. Its economy is very highly developed, and the country boasts the highest nominal GDP per capita in the world. Luxembourg is a full member in the European Union, the United Nations and Benelux, and its capital and largest city is Luxembourg.
As of the last census in 2011, Luxembourg had an estimated population of 511,000. Ethnic Luxembourgers account for the majority of the population, but there is also a large immigrant population that increased markedly in the 20th century due to the arrival of people from Belgium, France, Italy, Germany and Portugal (there are an estimated 50,000 people of Portuguese heritage residing in the country, making them the largest single ethnic minority group). In the 1990s, at the beginning of the Yugoslav wars, Luxembourg also became home to immigrants from Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In total, immigrants account for approximately 37 percent of the total population.
Luxembourg is a trilingual country with three official languages: French, German and Luxembourgish, the latter being a Franconian language of the Moselle region that is also spoke in parts of France and Germany. Luxembourgish is spoken commonly among most of the people in Luxembourg, and is considered the mother tongue and national language of the Grand Duchy. Depending on the area, all three official languages are used in different spheres, and German is typically the language of instruction in Luxembourg schools and the one used by the national media. Although Luxembourg is a secular state, certain religions are recognized by the state, and as such, the state helps to fund them in exchange for being given a hand in the administration and appointment of clergy. Roman Catholicism is the most prevalent religious faith in the country, practiced by 87 percent of the population, including the Royal Family. Other recognized religions include Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Russian Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Mennonitism and Islam.
Education in Luxembourg
Education in Luxembourg is under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and school is free and compulsory through primary school. The system of education is divided between four levels: preschool education, primary education, secondary education and higher education.
There are four compulsory cycles that comprise a student’s preschool and primary education: cycle one, the only preschool cycle for students between the ages of 3 and 5, followed by cycles two through four, each spanning 2 years and beginning at age 6, 8 and 10 respectively.
Preschool education in Luxembourg is compulsory beginning at age 4 and is the only level of education in the country in which Luxembourgish is the language of instruction. Here students are prepared to enter primary schools through courses in pre-reading and writing, and children are also taught socialization and cooperative skills.
Primary school, beginning at age 6 and culminating at age 11, is taught in cycles 2-4, and the instruction and reading materials are in both German and French, beginning in cycle 3. Cycle 2 focuses almost exclusively on basic reading, writing and arithmetic, subjects that are supplemented by a broad curriculum in cycles 3 and 4, including courses in science, social and cultural studies, history, geography, language arts, music and physical education. At the conclusion of cycle 4, pupils undergo an academic guidance session (cycle d’orientation) to evaluate the best option for their secondary school education (general education vs. vocational/technical education). This decision is based on four criteria: the parent’s wishes, the primary school teacher’s advice, school results over the last two years (grades) and the results of a series of exams taking place at the end of cycle four. The final decision is made by a panel of teachers and school administrators.
Secondary education takes place at either a lycée classique, where general university preparatory courses are offered, usually leading to university admission; or a lycée technique, institutions with a focus on technical education, with the goal of preparing students for specific professions following the conclusion of the program.
Higher education in Luxembourg consists of one large comprehensive university and several vocational and specialized schools. All students who successfully graduate from the lycée classique are eligible to enroll at the university level, where they can earn undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a number of academic and professional fields.