Choice of school diplomas – International Baccalaureate

The third in our series on educational qualification choices in Luxembourg, delves deeply into the International Baccalaureate.

You can read our articles on Luxembourgish Diplomas and the European Baccalaureate, and next week the series will conclude with a more in-depth examination of IGCSEs and A ‘levels.

About the IB

The International Baccalaureate or IB is a globally recognized qualification, taught in schools around the world. Over 1.25 million students study for the IB each year.

It aims to train curious, knowledgeable and caring young people with coping skills, encouraging students to ask questions, set ambitious goals and make ethical judgments. The emphasis is on teamwork and students are graded on an agreed set of learning outcomes rather than a bell curve.

The IB Learner Profile supports ten attributes: Seekers, Savvy, Thinkers, Communicators, Thoughtful, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, and Thoughtful. As a qualification, it is considered one of the best for preparing students for more independent studies in higher education.

The IB is offered in English at the Athénée public school in Luxembourg and in paying private schools, The International School of Luxembourg (in collaboration with the IGCSEs), Over the Rainbow (in French and in English) and in French with German / English at Waldorf School.

Luxembourg Athenaeum

The Athénée de Luxembourg has been offering the IB in English since September 2017. It is a seven-year program (Grades 7 to 13), but students only join the IB program in last two years and follow the preparatory and intermediate years before that. The final IB diploma is also recognized as equivalent to the Luxembourgish ESC.

The school is holding admission tests between March and May of the previous academic year for grades 7 and 10, although it is possible to take tests for any year if there are places in the class. The tests are in math and English for grades 7-8, math, French and English for grades 9-10, and English, French, science and math for grades 11-12.

In the first year of secondary school, students learn English, French, Luxembourgish, mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, art, music, history and sport. In the third year, geography is added and in the fourth year, Luxembourgish is replaced by German. Students choose their options at the end of the fifth year (11th grade) after which they begin the IB program.

The IB offered at Athénée focuses on classical subjects with three core subjects that must be taken at standard or higher level – English, French and Mathematics. A total of six subjects must be taken, three at a standard level and three at a higher level. The categories are broken down as follows:

  • Group 1: English language and literature
  • Group 2: French language and literature
  • Group 3 Individuals and societies – history or economy
  • Group 4: Sciences – Biology or chemistry or physics
  • Group 5: Mathematics
  • Group 6: The arts – a choice of visual arts, German or any subject not taken in groups 3 or 4.

Testing are based on past work under examination conditions and testing or evaluations. They differ for each topic, but you can get a full breakdown here.

In addition, students must follow the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) to study the nature of knowledge in various disciplines, and regularly participate in activities or projects for CASE (Creativity, Activity, Service). There is also a Extended trial of 4000 words.

Over the Rainbow International School

OTR International School is bilingual and offers the IB in English and French. It also welcomes children from 3 years old. A fairly recent school, founded in 2011 (the secondary cycle in 2015-16), it teaches about 200 children in total. This is an IB World School authorized for its IB Middle Years program. The languages ​​that can be studied are English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese, while Luxembourgish is offered as an extra-curricular activity.

The intermediate years program has eight courses

  • Group 1 Languages ​​and Literatures
  • Group 2 Language acquisition
  • Group 3 Mathematics
  • Group 4 Individuals and societies
  • Group 5 Sciences
  • Group 6 Arts
  • Group 7 Physical education and health
  • Group 8 Design (product and digital)

Students also undertake a project in grade 5, reflect on their learning, which is a requirement of the IB MYP (Intermediate Year Program) certificate. You can read more about the exact details of each MYP discipline here.

IB years

Again six groups – language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, science, mathematics and the arts. As with the Athenaeum, students can choose to study an additional science, individuals and societies, or language course instead of an art course.

The subjects must be taken to a standard level or higher, at least three, but not more than four, higher levels out of a total of six subjects. The full syllabus for level IB was not available on the school website, but you can refer to the general IB website for more information.

The two external and internal evaluation are used for this IB. Exams form the basis of assessment for most courses, but teacher assessment on oral language work, geography fieldwork, science lab work, mathematics inquiry, and artistic performance are also part of the final grade.

The OTR International School is chargeable and you can find out more about the fees and the school here.

Luxembourg International School (ISL)

ISL offers a program for early childhood and primary from 3 years old and you can find out more here.

ISL allows students to take the IGCSEs but the final qualification is the International Baccalaureate

Photo: Anouk Antoine

Then, students follow a middle school and high school program, the latter integrating the IGCSEs but leading to the IB.

College 11-14 years old

The program combines that of several national systems and the courses are taken in the following groups or streams at the college:

  • Group 1 Language and literature
  • Group 2 Language acquisition
  • Group 3 Social Sciences
  • Group 4 Experimental Sciences
  • Group 5 Mathematics
  • Group 6 Arts and elective courses
  • Group 7 Physical education and health

Students can choose the languages ​​English, French, German (and Spanish, but not at an advanced level). Art and electives include art, theater, and music.

The high school years

In the past two years, most students take the full IB curriculum, although it is possible to take an IB certificate program.

From grades 9 to 10, students work IGCSE and can choose from the following IGCSE courses as well as additional non-IGCSE courses:

  • English language – first language
  • English literature
  • French – first language
  • French as a foreign language
  • German – first language
  • German – foreign language
  • Spanish – foreign language
  • Coordinated sciences (biology, chemistry and physics). This is a double qualification of 2 IGSCE
  • International Mathematics
  • Additional mathematics
  • Physical education
  • Art design
  • Design technology
  • Drama
  • Music

Non-IGCSE courses possible

  • Combined business, economy, geography and history
  • Communication and Media (Grade 9)
  • Cinema (10th grade)
  • Food and Nutrition (Grades 9 and 10)

For level IB (grades 11-12) Pupils have the choice, within six groups, of taking these subjects at a standard level or above.

Group 1

  • English to Literature
  • English A Language and Literature
  • French language and literature
  • German language and literature A

Group 2

  • English B
  • French B
  • German B
  • beginner level in French
  • Spanish beginner level

Group 3

  • Business Management
  • Economy
  • Geography
  • Story

Group 4

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Design technology
  • Physics
  • Sport, exercise and health sciences

Group 5

  • Mathematical analyzes and approaches – standard or advanced level
  • Mathematical applications and interpretations – standard level or above

Group 6

  • Movie
  • Music
  • Theater arts
  • visual arts

Student work is evaluated both internally and externally, with internal evaluations forming 20% ​​of the final grade. As with the Athenaeum, students are also required to complete The Theory of Knowledge (TOK), write an in-depth essay, and undertake Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS).

You can read more about the IB program at ISL here. ISL is a fee-based school and you can read more about the fees here.

Waldorf School

Waldorf School provides education for children from kindergarten through primary and secondary school. In preschool, the language is Luxembourgish, while in primary school, it is mainly German, but from the first year or primary, French and English are introduced as foreign languages.

In secondary school, French is used as the lingua franca and English remains a foreign language. French is also used for core IB subjects, but some subjects are taught in German or English.

The program is divided into three equal parts in the first years of secondary school:

  • Languages ​​and social sciences
  • Mathematics and natural sciences
  • Arts, crafts and movement

Subjects are taught in modules of two to four weeks taking into account individual learning processes and levels. For the last two years of high school, sometimes an additional afternoon of school is added for a maximum of 12 weeks.

To apply for secondary school, students who are not already in school must take math, English, French and German tests, as well as an interview. In Grade 10, students must apply for entry into Grade 11 or the pre-IB year.

The IB is grouped together as follows :

  • Group 1 German & French
  • Group 2 French & English
  • Group 3 Philosophy & History (in French)
  • Group 4 Biology & Physics
  • Group 5 Mathematics (in French)
  • Group 6 Visual Arts and Theater (in English)

The Waldorf School also promotes learning through the workplace, with internships in companies. Depending on the student’s choice or orientation, students either finish school in grade 11 or enter a pre-IB year leading to IB.

Internships make it possible to develop the land and take place in agriculture (3 weeks in 9th grade), with craftsmen (3-5 weeks in 10th grade), and a social internship in 11th grade. There are also many school trips.

In the year 11, the the class is divided into pre-IB or those who will leave school for a learning or exchange and study the Waldorf program.

IB students are assessed internally and externally, the latter by teachers and representing between 20-30% of the final mark.

You can read more about the Waldorf School IB program here. You can find the details of the costs here.


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