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Parent's Review of International School of Luxembourg in Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Submitted by arizonalux

What is the name of your child's school? (Please report on one school per survey.)

International School of Luxembourg

In what town or city is this school located?

Luxembourg

How would you describe this school? (i.e. American, British, International, Local, etc.)

International

What grade levels are represented at this school?

Preschool to 12

How do most children get to school everyday? (bus, train, walk, etc.)

Parent drop-off, bus, walking. Parking is an issue!

How would you describe the facilities at this school? What extra-curricular activities are available?

The facility is clean and modern-looking, it has a very urban feel. A new building is under construction, scheduled for 2013 I believe. Parking is insufficient though, and it is a daily challenge, although I think this is true for St Georges as well, so what can you do.

The school offers Choir, children play the recorder in Grade 2, Band (w instrument lessons beginning in grade 4, and you can find on-campus lessons in gymnastics, ballet, basketball, soccer, track and swimming. Some classes have an extra fee. There are specific sign-up dates done through the school's website, and often times children are put on a waiting list so even though the school will tell you these activities are available during the tour, the reality is that it's not always guaranteed that your child will get into the sport they want on the first try and you might have to wait a semester or two.

You can ask around among other parents though and find activities in the community such as tennis, horse back riding, ice skating, soccer leagues, etc. Other parents are very helpful.

What has this school done to help your child transition from the curriculum in your home country into the curriculum in your new country? Are there programs to prepare your child for repatriation?

Despite what they will tell you, consensus among parents (and personal experience) is that ISL administrators don't care what kind of school you are coming from or where they are going after, they just want to do things their own way, and they are arrogant in believeing it is the best way. To be frank, if you are coming from an average US public school system, you will probably like ISL and have no significant issues. If you are coming from a private school or a school with an advanced curriculum (US schools often boast their curriculum is advanced by a year), and if challenging academics are important to you, then you will want to consider having your child advanced by a grade. If you feel that skipping a grade would work well for your child socially, then you MUST fight for this advanced placement right up front at the time of admission. The school does not want to set a precedent/reputation that it is not challenging for Americans, and it is a BATTLE to get your child moved up after they've already started.

The school has much to offer in art, music, history and field trips, their science seems to be decent... but in core academics, I would call it mediocre at best. A self-starting type A child will succeed in any environment, but most parents here agree that ISL is just kind of "Meh" but the general experience of the travel and diversity is enough of an advantage to off-set the negatives. If you have a child with special needs, don't come here. They don't want kids that need any special attention, and there's not even an elevator in the school or anything whatsoever for handicapped access.

In the US we tend to be more aggressive with academics right from the start, whereas here the approach seems to be that they go very easy on the younger kids, and then amp it up as they reach middle school and high school. So they all get there in the end, but if you are moving your kids in and out, they may have trouble transitioning back. I do not believe ISL does any follow-up on students after they leave to know how they've fared with the transition.

Another difference from the US is that standardized testing does not begin until 4th grade, and I have yet to see a report card. I have children in K1 (equivalent to 2nd yr of PreK), 2nd and 4th. My older two had to be bumped up a grade to get a similar curriculum to their peers at home. My youngest began in ISLs Preschool and we kept him with his same-age group. Preschool (ages 3-4) does no formal academics, it is songs and playing. K1 (ages 4-5) begins letter of the week type work, and basic French lessons.

How would you describe the social activities available for parents through this school? Are there parent-teacher organizations?

Parents often meet in the school cafeteria in the mornings between drop-off at 8:30-9:00. The parents are very helpful if you ask. Room parents for the children's classes are also very helpful. You have to be willing to ask for help. Occasionally there will be a PTO-organized event like a wine-tasting, but no childcare is usually provided so you have to be settled enough to have found a sitter. The school does offer a list of older students who are willing to babysit.

What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling their child in this school?

People in the US romanticize Europe and assume the educational system is so much better. It's not. The experience of living abroad, traveling and meeting lots of smart, successful executive-level families from a wide variety of cultures... that's what makes it great. But ISL is an average school. They do a lovely job with artistic performances in music, art, theater. There is much to see in the area of visible relics of history and the school does a good job with field trips and relevant history/science lessons. If your expectation is to find a school that exceeds US academic standards, you will be disappointed. If your company is willing to cover the school cost and your kids will either remain in the International school system throughout or are young enough to have a few moderately paced school years, then the experience itself is worth it. Good luck!

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Comments about this Report

guest
May 17, 2012 03:27

Fascinating, and amusing, that Europe's ENTIRE myriad education systems have been judged as not only a seemingly singular entity, but essentially trashed to boot in comparison to the teeny tiny miniscule personal experience of an expat sending their children to ONE 'international' school in a very equally teeny tiny country. Hardly a reasonable and like-for-like comparison to America's state or private schooling. Try moving to, say, uk or France and sending your children to one of the world class private schools or even one of the better state schools and you would quickly realise the foolishness of making sweeping generalisations such as this. Unfortunately this is exactly the kind of attitude that makes about 90% of the non-American world roll their eyes in exasperation.

guest
May 17, 2012 12:38

Fascinting, and amusing, that your comment seems to have nothing to do with my actual report, and is more intent upon falsely accusing me of making sweeping generalizations, and labeling me as an exasperating American. At no point did I negatively characterise an ENTIRE European educational system, nor even international schools on the whole. My report is specific to the Interntional School OF LUXEMBOURG, and gives what I feel are some balanced pros and cons for other American to consider if they are exploring the option of moving their children to the tiny country of LUXEMBOURG, where there are limited options available for education taught in English. Undoubtedly there would be many more options for finding excellent schools in larger countries such as the UK or France, but that is not the focus of this report.

guest
Jun 18, 2012 14:06

This school has a sub-standard level of academic benchmarks in comparison to other educations systems. My wife and I are from British and American educational backgrounds respectively and find not only the attitude of the staff mediocre, broadly speaking the circulum does not even deliver a real challenge. How can a school find it hard to separate ordinary level students from higher level, reason, vicarious PTO, unionised teachers (in a private school!) and ineffective board. For younger children that require social development it is a good school, from 12+ there is a deminishing return on academic outcome versus increased pricing on a year to year basis.

guest
Jun 19, 2012 13:34

I also have a child at ISL and find the teachers in the lower school are a caring and hard working group. We came from a private school on NYC and my son is happier here than he was there. The curriculum is less paper pencil, more explorative and hands on, I find. I don't really understand the complaint of the previous parent, about the school being unionized. These teachers are hired through a rigorous process, and mostly come from private schools in their native countries. If they want to join a union here, we should question why is it that they feel they need to? How does isl treat them?

guest
Feb 20, 2013 04:12

We have children at ISL and have been in Luxembourg for two years. Our children have attended a state school elsewhere in Europe, and have attended two other international schools, one in Europe and one outside of Europe. We are not Americans, and thus bring a slightly different perspective to that of arizonalux. However, both in the broad thrust of arizonalux's comments, and in many of the details, we agree with both the negative and positive comments about ISL. Individual teachers at ISL, as in most schools, are on the whole very good, but there are, in our view, too many exceptions. Given the school's facilities and income (via fees and a state subsidy), we have been surprised by how poor the school is, relative to other international schools with which we are familiar with. In our assessment, ISL is not living up to its potential, and the reasons likely include the following: (i) poorly paid teachers, relative to the pay of local teachers, relative to the high cost of living in Luxembourg, and relative to teacher pay in international schools elsewhere in Europe and elsewhere in the world, leading to ISL not being a magnet for the best teachers; (ii) a strange complacency, both intellectual and otherwise, on the part of many of the school's professional community; (iii) a failure of the board to address problems that are clear to interested parents, and that are also clear to many of the teachers at the school; (iv) a board, and perhaps also senior professional staff, that appear to be insular and out of their depth.

arizonalux
May 10, 2014 17:32

UPDATE FROM ARIZONALUX Since my initial posting, there have been a variety of changes worthy of an update, in order to provide some more current and balanced information for others to consider if they are searching for information about ISL. With the start of the 2013-14 school year, ISL celebrated its 50th anniversary and completed a massive overhaul with its facilities. The new lower school building is truly fantastic, and the renovation of the pre-existing buildings for administration and the upper/middle school is equally impressive. From a facility perspective, ISL’s campus now is world class, with an environment where the students can feel excited, inspired and proud. Classrooms boast state of the art equipment; there are dedicated spaces for language, art, music, theater and performances. The lower school has a beautiful library, an impressive auditorium, a huge gymnasium and a lovely cafeteria with well-prepared and healthy food choices and expanded outdoor spaces for recess. New sports faculty are also expanding and re-energizing the after-school fitness and competitive sports programs. I also want to commend the school for its efforts regarding increased manpower and physical/technical security devices protecting the campus and the facilities. ISL is in an urban, high traffic location, but I think they are doing a really good job at making it a safe place, and making it feel like a safe place as well. This year my children are in both the lower and middle schools. I stand by my earlier comments advising people with lower school age children, who might only be in Luxembourg for a short duration, to be persistent right from the admission stage to place their children in a grade level that is consistent and commensurate with the work levels they are coming from and where they will go after ISL. That said, if your stay in Luxembourg will be of longer or indefinite duration, then it’s probably fine or even advisable to keep your kids with their same age peers and let them learn at the pace set by the school, because in the long run you will probably be pleased with the results. My earlier praise of the lower school programs for history and science stands true today, and the school does an outstanding job of taking concepts from the classroom and extending learning through the arts (ex: a learning unit on water and rivers was incorporated into their art classes and through onstage performances and singing.) The school does an amazing job at giving the children real world learning opportunities through field trips to see events and locations in Luxembourg and the surrounding countries. Early years and 1st graders stay local with half day trips to the post office, LuxLait Milk factory and Luxembourg Air Rescue. 2nd graders study ancient Rome, act and sing onstage for a performance about Roman life, and take day trips to ruins of ancient Roman baths and reconstructed Roman villas in Germany. A highlight of the 5th grade is a 5-day hiking and outdoor adventure trip in Switzerland. 6th graders went overnight to Euro Space Camp in Belgium and got to experience weightlessness and actual flight simulation exercises used to train astronauts. 7th graders this year will go on a trip to Normandy. They really do a great job of getting the kids out there! My children are a bit older since my first report, so my perspective has grown. I have to say I am very impressed with the middle school curriculum. In the 6th grade, they have the option to take German as well as French. They have Social Studies units on Ancient Civilizations (Egypt, China, Mesopotamia); Cultures in Conflict (ex: learning about current events such as the troubles in Syria); and World Religions. I think American schools tend to shy away from these controversial subjects, especially at the elementary school level. So I am thrilled with the kind of sophisticated global perspective my kids are gaining. Kudos to ISL for introducing the students to engaging and provocative topics, and for encouraging the children to develop a greater understanding and respect for the diversity of views and experiences that exist in the world around them, and within the school community itself. I am also highly impressed by the school board (all highly talented and successful executives) and its vision, motivation and intent to improve the school and work with the administration to ensure that ISL delivers one of the most highly respected educational programs in the international school system. ISL, like every other school, has its challenges, and there is always room to grow and improve. My personal knowledge of international schools is limited to Luxembourg, but in speaking with parents who have looked at international schools elsewhere, ISL is apparently one of the most robust, with its combination of learning programs, campus and facilities, and the opportunities that come with its centralized western European location. The longer I am here, I grow increasingly more satisfied and confident in the value of the experience and education my children are getting at ISL. I would still caution parents of lower school children (particularly American and possibly British) that if you are only here for a couple of years, with the different approaches to the pace and content of learning between ISL and schools in your home country, it is possible for your kids to fall into a gap with the transition back home. How to address that will vary with each individual. But overall, I think ISL has improved, and is actively growing and striving for excellence. My kids are happy here, I’m impressed with the things they know and are learning, and ISL is making a very positive impact on their lives. I will update this again when we have moved on from Lux, and have more to offer from the experience of transitioning to a different school/country (probably the US.) I will definitely look for schools with an IB program. Meanwhile, I hope this report is more balanced now and helpful to those who read it. Good luck!

guest
Jul 22, 2014 13:59

We had our child for few years at ISL. We are mixed, british/european family. Previously our child was at the French system , then we moved to ISL . Our child was at I SL at the end of primary and first year of middle school. Myself and my husband we are both very academic University graduate. My opinion about ISL as a school is very low. I think the standard of education at ISL is poor. Children are not challenged at all! Curriculum is very poor. In my opinion children do not get much knowledge there. School doesn't teach but only tells children what they should work on. Everything bases on self learning, self investigation and projects on the computers which pushes child to do 'copy/paste'. iSL is a sort of camp where everything is 'great and 'amazing' and proper traditional learning doesn't exist there. In my opinion the school is not good for parents who value strong academic and are looking for high standard education. School attracts parents by showing them great facilities, good organisation and possibility to do sports. However even in sports, children who really want to achieve something must go to local luxembourgish clubs bc at IsL teaching in all areas is very poor. I am very happy leaving iSL as I saw my child getting bored and frustrated over there. The risk of being at IsL is that at any next school your child is at least one year behind others in all subject. To every new expat in Luxembourg I would advice to try any other school except of ISL. The danger of going down academically is too high.

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10 Tips for Living in Luxembourg

How many languages do they speak in Luxembourg? How are the international schools in Luxembourg? Is it as expensive in Luxembourg as everyone says? In our article, expats answer these questions and many more.

How many languages do they speak in Luxembourg? How are the international schools in Luxembourg? Is it as expensive in Luxembourg as everyone says? In our article, expats answer these questions and...

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