Executive summary

Luxembourg is driving an ambitious early childhood education and care (ECEC) policy agenda. The government has recently initiated a series of critical reforms to improve access, affordability and quality for the country’s youngest children. This follows decades of substantial public investment in the ECEC system – particularly in the schooling system to ensure free access for families.

In recent years, the priority has focussed on non-formal education, which in this context is defined as ECEC that serves young children before compulsory school age (4 years old) and school-aged children during out-of-school hours. Key to the reforms has been boosting public investment, developing multilingual education and improving governance and co-ordination across key institutions that oversee formal and non-formal education. The government continues to make adjustments to the system and wishes to strengthen the professional development of the non-formal sector workforce.

This review sets out the Luxembourg context and ECEC policy reforms, focusing on non-formal education. It outlines areas of focus for Luxembourg policy to drive improvement to and build quality ECEC for all.

Luxembourg has some of the most affordable ECEC among OECD countries, with both free and subsidised ECEC available to families. Participation in ECEC is also widespread. In 2019, approximately 61% of children under age 3 were enrolled in ECEC in Luxembourg, which is above the OECD average.

Nonetheless, despite overall strong investment in ECEC in Luxembourg, clear divisions in the sector (formal versus non-formal and contracted versus non-contracted) contribute to an array of unevenly resourced services, leading to uneven quality beyond minimum requirements, particularly in non-formal education. The current non-formal sector funding scheme may also undermine equity in the system. Prioritising investments in quality improvement for settings, particularly with children from socially or economically disadvantaged and language minority backgrounds, will be key.

In 2013, the government integrated non-formal and formal education into one ministry – the Ministry of Education, Children and Youth (MENJE). This move signalled a recognition of the non-formal sector as a core component of education rather than simply a work support for parents.

MENJE brings together curriculum frameworks, programmes and systems of accountability, improvement and quality assurance from both sectors. However, it still faces some co-ordination challenges and needs to build better links internally to move toward more unified ECEC. Strengthening communication and collaboration across departments and building mechanisms for learning from mutual experience are essential to efficiently capitalising on Luxembourg’s investments in ECEC.

Workforce development can help drive improvement in the quality of ECEC provision. Workforce preparedness, ongoing professional development and working conditions are key to boosting staff practices and improving children’s experiences.

Higher qualified and better-prepared staff tend to concentrate in the formal sector, which means there is a pressing need for qualified staff in non-formal education. One way to address this is to develop ECEC-specific qualifications and programmes to better prepare new staff and encourage existing ECEC staff in the non-formal sector to advance towards higher levels of qualification. The curriculum framework for non-formal education is a milestone for the sector, but further efforts are needed to prepare staff to implement it.

Continuous professional development is also particularly important in Luxembourg, where staff in the non-formal sector come from different backgrounds and have diverse qualifications. A new reform makes continuous training, coaching and mentoring free of charge for all settings of the non-formal sector. This may help reduce the disparity between the two sectors and support continuous professional development in non-contracted (delivered by for-profit providers) and small settings.

The 2022 reform also seeks to better tailor training content to staff and leader needs. Care needs to be taken to ensure that mechanisms are in place to assess different needs and strengthen the monitoring of the quality of professional development provision. Training also needs to be available in different languages, formats, and to include mechanisms to raise staff qualifications formally. Improving training in these ways could increase the quality of professional development while providing incentives to staff to gain higher qualifications and wages.

In the non-formal sector, attracting and retaining highly-qualified staff is particularly challenging for non-contracted settings, as they can offer less advantageous working conditions than contracted settings (delivered mainly by municipalities or non-profit organisations). The government will also need to review the funding and monitoring systems to support an alignment of wages with qualifications and roles.

A national quality assurance and improvement system for ECEC already exists for all types of ECEC provision in Luxembourg, but recent and ongoing government reforms focus on enhancing it for non-formal education.

Regional officers (e.g. “inspectors” for non-formal education) play a vital role in strengthening knowledge on process quality and steering improvement in this sector. To support their role, the government has just introduced new guidelines for monitoring procedures. Ensuring that regional officers also have access to a diverse range of information sources during visits, e.g. information from discussions with staff members, is important to help strengthen their ability to foster quality improvement. Other options could include introducing systematic observations of staff and children during everyday activities and providing additional training to strengthen regional officers’ ECEC-specific knowledge.

A risk-based approach to monitoring visits would ensure that efforts are proportionate and focussed on where they can have the greatest impact. Such an approach could free up regional officers to focus on the follow up of improvement plans with settings and include observations in their visits.

Clarifying the role of the two monitoring agencies for non-formal ECEC will enhance the work of both and could strengthen the mechanisms to support quality improvement. The government has already started this process. Adjustments include improved communications around both agencies’ control versus support functions to build a balance between the two and not undermine relationships with ECEC settings.

Reflective practice is one of the cornerstones of Luxembourg’s quality assurance system. In particular, self-evaluations are increasingly seen as key to ensuring quality of provision. However, wider staff participation within settings beyond centre leaders could be encouraged to support reflection and seek team improvement.

Analysing data on the non-formal sector will also be critical to assessing whether the Luxembourg ECEC system is accessible to families and of high quality. How this data is combined and shared with stakeholders is also important to help channel resources and monitoring efforts, for example.

Finally, parents and children could become more active stakeholders in the quality improvement process in non-formal ECEC. This includes incorporating their feedback into the system and sharing data with them regularly.


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