Lycée Ermesinde in english ...
Modern educational systems implicitly demand that the more talents and predispositions pupils might show in one field, the less work and commitment is required for them to pass predefined common levels or minimum standards. Thus school defines itself increasingly as a place where pupils are invited to work most in the fields which bore them most and motivate them the least. This inevitably leads to a negative specialization inspired by the will to avoid the subjects which are the most problematic instead of continuing and developing personal interests and talents. It is time to get out of this logic which durably splits knowledge and pleasure, work and passion.
The Lycée Ermesinde provides an outstanding educational practice which would never be possible with textbooks, pre-designed curricula and marks.
Fundamental ideas behind the Lycée Ermesinde:
- School is a place where living and working go hand in hand
- Learning occurs incidentally, informally and necessarily by emulation through continual exchange and friendship
- Exchange, negociation and cooperation are set up to demand excellence from all students in their domain of interest and capacity
- Fostering of intellectual and emotional diversity
- Every 12-year-old has the right and the obligation to define domains of personal interests and skills and make them beneficial to all
- School has to guarantee this right and get the students to fulfil their obligations
- School has a duty towards society and each of its members
- Critical and constructive exchanges are vital to learning and self-fulfilment
- Motivation and personal development are strongly connected to mutual learning
- Acquisition of skills is most effective when it relies on learners’ willingness to externalize contents and be persuasive about them and the necessity to do so
- Pedagogical strategy focuses on a hands-on approach to learning where a variety of skills emerge incidentally
- Community composed of teachers, “éducateurs” and so-called specialists (professionals responsible for “complementary activities”: gardening, cooking, performing arts, foreign languages, arts, etc.)
- Pedagogical teams
- Individual tutors
- Decision making committee called “groupe de pilotage”
- Executive management of the school (“direction”) relying on the “groupe de pilotage” for consultative purposes and decision making
- Scientific committee composed of French, English and Swiss academics
- Internal research group
As mentioned earlier, common schools are normative, having the same requirements for everybody. It is no wonder that school based on set textbooks, predesigned national curricula and marks produces many negative schooling experiences. School drop outs are particularly high in Luxemburg and resits have been shown to be useless. This schooling system, albeit a system that has been adopted worldwide in the last decades, heralds forth students that are capable to learn by the book without necessarily feeling passionate about anything. The situation is even worse : personal interests are often stifled and in fact constitute an obstacle to them sticking to the point in normative assessments. This constitutes a loss for both individual and society at large. In conclusion, development of talent is not promoted and the select few are possibly not those to be most beneficial to society. The breaking up of these constraints leads to a widening and diversifying of the spectrum of excellence.
The Lycée Ermesinde is a pilot public school funded by the Ministry of National Education of Luxemburg. It was founded in 2005 as the first school in Luxemburg having its own special law providing and ensuring financial, educational and administrative autonomy including freedom of selecting administrative and teaching staff. The project for a tailor-made permanent structure was launched in 2006 and construction will be completed by December 2011. The school has been in high demand since it opened by parents, pupils and teachers alike. Many young graduates are attracted by our school and start their teaching career and teacher training with us. Contrary to other schools, once they have acquired their teaching certificate, all have the opportunity to stay and do so.
Our school tries to get away from the teacher-centred classroom towards a student-centred learning environment that takes place in and outside the classroom. This entails that students have to make their own choices i.e. activities, topic for their biannual research project ("travail personnel") and what subjects they want to take added responsabilities for (cf. 4). The syllabus of the class is negociated collaboratively and alongside the teacher it is some expert students' ("élèves engagés") duty to ensure that lessons are fed with appropriate content as well as practice opportunities. Thus non expert students acquire basic skills, while the expert students can test, consolidate and widen their skills, knowledge and interests. Through these individual and social responsibilities all students are held to develop a more comprehensive awareness of his or her own strengths and interests in order to make informed decision concerning their future.
Every student is responsible in feeding into the courses where he has declared himself the most performant. Thus, courses are essentially based on contributions by the several pupils called “élèves engagés”. The latter are in charge of documenting the issue, designing exercises and organizing activities and assisting the teacher commenting and assessing the lesson. In other words, the students of every course are divided into two: students imparting and students requiring knowledge. Every pupil has to declare himself dedicated to no more than two to three subjects out of eight at once. In those subjects where he is not “élève engagé”, he is supposed to critically engage in the classroom discussions and demand efficiency, assiduousness and empathy from the “experts”. Motivation and emulation follow from this alternation of roles. As a result, main and secondary subjects no longer have any validity as every subject has the potential to becoming main subject for specific students.
According to its founders, this school was meant to be the first autonomous public school in a country used to heavily centralized education, hoping that others would follow suit. It should not turn into a model school in which new pedagogical and didactical methods and techniques are developed to be generalized and imposed on traditional structures. However, it has always had the intention to incite policy makers and the general public alike to question their preconceived ideas.
A word form the Minister of Education (july 2010) :
“My taking part in the preparations for the creation of a school based on personal involvement and social cohesion having led to the creation of the Neie Lycée in 2005, go back to the year 1998. Back then, the founding ideas of the project were carried forth by an association called LYCOPA (“Lycée coopératif et participatif”). I personally took part to a whole series of discussions with LYCOPA during the two years previous to my mandate as Minister of Education before deciding, once I was put in charge in June 2004, the core members of LYCOPA should bring this school to life. The creation of this school was explicitly stated in our governement’s programme of 2004, as was the creation within this self-same school of a course called “Education aux Valeurs”, a course replacing religious and moral instruction still present in the other state schools. The Prime Minister recognized the importance of disclosing the two decisions on TV.
After one year of intensive work with the ministry’s efficient help, the first fully autonomous state school of Luxembourg was inaugurated in July 2005. Upper classes were added to the project in 2009.
Since then, the NL has shown results and continues to evolve positively to my greatest satisfaction. Applications keep coming in, students’ school results are excellent, especially so in the studies they go on to do, and parents’ feedback has been most laudatory.
I regard the pedagogic teams as well as the weekly tutorial sessions as key to an efficient counselling and vocational guidance.
I would like to congratulate the Neie Lycée on its engagement and continuous outstanding work. The school has been a reference for its tight collaboration between teachers, “éducateurs” and “specialists”. Not to forget the fact that teachers at the school have more obligations, or rather more diverse tasks they need to deal with on a daily basis, tasks that go beyond responsibilities known by teachers in other schools. In fact, teachers here need to be more available, spend longer hours at school, compared with colleagues in other schools. Despite these apparent constraints or I should rather say, thanks to them, the school keeps attracting excellent young graduates who keep integrating this school after their teacher training. This in itself seems proof enough to testify to the good working environment and degree of satisfaction for teachers and students alike.”