​​The European Schools are official educational establishments controlled jointly by the governments of the Member States of the European Union. In all these countries they are legally regarded as public institutions.

The mission of the European Schools is to provide a multilingual and multicultural education for nursery, primary and secondary level pupils.

The European School system consists of two years of early education (nursery cycle), five years of primary and seven years of secondary education.

Pupils are admitted to the nursery school at the beginning of the school year in September of the calendar year in which the child reaches four years of age and pupils shall be admitted to primary year 1 at the beginning of the school year in September of the calendar year in which the child reaches six years of age.
​​Cycle ​​ClassesAge
​'Early education' (Nursery) ​1-2​4 and 5
Observation cycle
Pre-orientation cycle
Orientation cycle 



Early Education is designed to:
  • prepare children for a happy, healthy, responsible, and successful life
  • develop children’s personality and abilities
  • support children’s learning potential
  • build up respect for others and the environment
  • respect and appreciate children’s own cultural and social identity, its values and those of others
  • promote a European spirit.
Early Education is a fundamental part of life long education and learning and its central role is to support children’s growth into ethical and responsible members of society. Teaching and learning in the early years supports and monitors children’s physical and psychological wellbeing, including social, cognitive and emotional development and helps to prevent any difficulties that may arise by creating the best possible learning opportunities.

Teaching and learning in the early years is holistic and different areas of development are not separated. In this document as well as in daily school life children, their experiences and actions are central.

It is important to strengthen children’s healthy sense of self-esteem with the aid of positive learning experiences and to provide opportunities for diverse interaction with other people. Children’s world of experiences shall be enriched and they should be assisted as they seek to find new areas of interest.

The children aged four and five are often taught in mix​ed groups.


In the primary school the focus is on mother tongue, mathematics and the first foreign language, but art, music, physical education, discovery of the world and religion/ethics are important - as are the "European Hours", where mixed nationalities meet for a variety of activities.​

Primary school harmonised timetable​

​​Subject  ​Years 1 and 2 ​Years 3, 4, 5
​Mother tongue 
(SWALS Language 1 - L1) 
​8 hours
(2 hours 30 mins)
​6 hours 45 mins
(3 hours 45 mins)
​Mathematics ​4 hours​5 hours 15 mins
​Language 2 (L2) ​2 hours 30 mins​3 hours 45 mins
Physical education 

​5 hours

​3 hours
​Discovery of the World ​1 hour 30 mins​3 hours
​European Hours​-​1 hour 30 mins
​Religion / Ethics ​1 hour​1 hour 30 mins
​Recreation​3 hours 30 mins​2 hours 30 mins
Total  ​25 hours 30 mins ​27 hours 15 mins
​ONL - Irish/Maltese*
ONL – Finnish/ Swedish* 
​1 hour 30 mins
​1 hour 30 mins
1 hour 30 mins
*Other National Language is taught during the school day



Pupils normally enter the secondary school in the calendar year in which they turn 11, following the successful completion of the European School’s primary course or an equivalent course duly certified by an officially recognised school.

The seven years of secondary education are organised in the following way: for the first three years, pupils follow a common curriculum, in what is known as the observation cycle. Most subjects are taught in the mother tongue. 
As from the 2014-2015 school year, all pupils will begin to study a second foreign language (L3) from secondary year 1 onwards. 
In secondary year 3, all pupils study human sciences and religion or ethics in their first foreign language (L2).
In secondary year 2, Latin is offered as an option. In secondary year 3, pupils who chose Latin in year 2 continue to study it. For the other pupils, ICT is offered as an option.

In years 4 and 5 the compulsory course in integrated science is subdivided into physics, chemistry and biology, and pupils may choose between the advanced or the normal course in mathematics. Other options include economics, a third foreign language and Ancient Greek.
Years 6 and 7 form a unit which leads to the European​ Baccalaureate. Although there is a core of compulsory subjects, including mother tongue, Language 2, mathematics, a science, philosophy, physical education, history and geography, students have a wide range of further options and may choose to study some subjects for two periods, four periods or at an advanced level.

Pupils are regularly assessed and reports are issued three or four times a year. Assessment is based on both course-work and examinations, although formal examinations do not form part of the observation cycle. Criteria established by the Board of Governors are used to decide whether a pupil may move up to the year above at the end of the school year.

Educational support
Different forms and levels of support are provided, designed to ensure appropriate help for pupils experiencing difficulties and having special educational needs at any point in their school career, to allow them to develop and progress according to their potential and to be successfully integrated (see Edu​cational support).
Language teaching
All the national languages of the 27 EU countries are taught.
Schools have 3-16 langua​ge sections.
Students Without A Language Section (SWAL​S) follow a specific curriculum.
Pupils start studying a first foreign language (L2) in primary year 1. That language may be English, French or German.
Pupils start studying a second foreign language (L3) in secondary year 1.
Pupils may start studying a third foreign language (L4) in secondary year 4.
A fourth foreign language (L5) is a complementary course in secondary years 6 and 7.
Latin is taught from year 2 and Ancient Greek is taught from year 4.
L3, L4, L5 can, in principle, be any of the official EU languages (except Irish and Maltese).
Basic proficiency level in all modern languages according to the 'Common European Framework of Reference for Languages' (see document 2013-08-D-11-en-1)

Basic proficiency level in the different cycles

​​Early education ​Primary ​Secondary Year 3 ​Secondary Year 5 ​Secondary Year 7
​L2 ​0​A2​B1​B2​C1
​L3 ​0​0​A1+​A2+​B1+
​L4 advanced 4h ​0​0​0​A1​A2+
​L4 basic 2h ​0​0​0​A1​A2
​ONL (Other National Language) ​A1.1 oral​A1.2​A2​B1​B2

Use of languages (as from the 2014-2015 school year)

  1. In primary years 3-5, the subject ‘European Hours’ is taught to mixed language groups, generally in the pupil's L2 or in the language of the host country.
  2. In secondary years 1-5, art, music, ICT and physical education are taught to mixed language groups in one of the three L2 (DE, EN, FR) or in the language of the host country. In secondary years 6-7, art, music (basic and option courses) and physical education are taught to mixed language groups in one of the three vehicular languages (DE, EN, FR) or in the language of the host country.
  3. In secondary year 3, human sciences courses and the religion and non-confessional ethics courses are taught in L2 (DE, EN or FR). From secondary year 4, history, geography and economics courses are organised inL2 (DE, EN and FR). The teaching of religion and non-denominational ethics courses in Language 2 (DE, EN or FR) will gradually be introduced in secondary years 4 to 7 also, starting from the 2015-2016 school year.
  4. In secondary years 6-7, if the 4-period option course in history and geography cannot be organised in the pupil's vehicular language (DE, EN, FR), the pupil may follow it in another vehicular language provided that this is not the pupil's L1, with the Director’s permission.
  5. With the approval of the Administrative Board, the school may organise the teaching of certain subjects (e.g. ethics, religion etc.) in the L2 or the language of the host country.
Students Without A Language Section – SWALS) (see document 2019-04-D-13-en-1, page 10)

SWALS are those categories I and II pupils whose mother tongue/dominant language is an official language of an EU Member State (with the exception of Irish and Maltese) but for whom no language section in their mother tongue/dominant language (L1) exists in their school.

If one of the language sections of the European Schools corresponding to a category I or II pupil's mother tongue/dominant language is not open in the school, this pupil is entitled to tuition in his/her L1, working on the assumption that the School has at its disposal a duly qualified teacher, or can recruit one.

SWALS are normally enrolled in the English, French or German sections. The language of the section is the pupil’s L2. SWALS can also be enrolled in the language section of the host country on condition that no additional costs are incurred. Their L2 should be English, French or German.