European Baccalaureate - Overview


The European Baccalaureate is taken at the end of the seventh year of secondary education. It is awarded only by the fourteen European Schools. The EB should be distinguished from the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the baccalaureate of various national systems. Details of the examination are set out in the Annex of the Statute of the European School and in the Regulations for the EB, available from the schools.

The EB is administered and directly supervised by an external examining board appointed annually by the Board of Governors. The examining board consists of up to three representatives of each member state, who must satisfy the conditions governing the appointment of equivalent examining boards in their respective countries. It is presided over by a senior university educator appointed by each member state in turn, assisted by a member of the Board of Inspectors of the schools.

Article 5 (2) of the Statute provides that holders of the Baccalaureate shall:

  • enjoy, in the member state of which they are nationals, all the benefits attaching to the possession of the diploma or certificate awarded at the end of secondary school education in that country; and
  • be entitled to seek admission to any university in the territory of any member state on the same terms as nationals of that member state with equivalent qualifications

The EB is a two year course and assesses the performance of students in the subjects taught in secondary years 6-7.

The first awards of the EB were made in 1959.

The EB is marked in percentages out of 100, and, in contrast to many national systems (e.g. British A-Levels), comprises a wide range of compulsory subjects and 3-5 elective subjects. Compulsory studies include mother tongue, 1st foreign language, mathematics (5hours/week or 3/hours a week course), philosophy, one science subject, history and geography (both taught in the 1st foreign language), and gym. These also depend on the orientation that the pupil has chosen at the end of year 5. The choice of elective subjects is large (see the list below), although the subject may not be available if the class size is too small.

Course periods per week Notes
Column 1: Compulsory
Language 1
Language 2
Mathematics 3 or 5
Religion or Ethics
Column 2: Compulsory if not taken in Column 3
Philosophy 2
History 2
Geography 2
Biology 2 if no other Science has been taken.
Column 3: Optional
Geography 4
History 4
Philosophy 4
Language 3 4
Physics 4
Chemistry 4
Biology 4
Art 4
Music 4
Language 4 4 only if studied in the 4th and 5th year
Latin 4 only if studied in the 4th and 5th year
Ancient Greek 4 only if studied in the 4th and 5th year
Economics 4 only if studied in the 4th and 5th year
Column 4: Further Optional
Advanced Language 1 3
Advanced Language 2 3
Advanced Mathematics 3 only with 5-period maths from Column 1
Column 5: Complementary
Laboratory Physics 2
Laboratory Chemistry 2
Laboratory Biology 2
Elementary Economics 2 only if not taken in Column 3
Sociology 2
Art 2 only if not taken in Column 3
Music 2 only if not taken in Column 3
Physical Education 2
Drama 2
Language 5 2

A minimum of 31 periods a week must be taken, with a maximum of 35 periods. At least 2 Column 3 subjects must be chosen; a maximum of 4 can be taken.

The total mark consists of:

  • 15% coursework from 7th year
  • 25% written exams in January
  • 24% oral exams in June (where applicable)
  • 36% written exams in June

Consequently, there is a comparatively heavy workload for the students; the system enforces not only a rounded knowledge of all subjects but also allows students to specialise in individual fields. Students are obliged to have a strong skills in one foreign language (in years 2-5 of secondary school a 2nd foreign language is also compulsory). The final pass-rate is very high (almost always over 95%), in part due to the practice of 'weeding out' candidates who are not academically strong enough to complete the Baccalaureate.

This process starts from an early age whereby many pupils either leave, are asked to leave or fall foul of the 'three strikes' rule (fail a year 3 times and the student will be asked to leave). Failing the same year twice also means leaving the school. Failing and repeating a year is a fairly common occurrence from age 10 upwards; roughly up to 5% of pupils will fail in each year. There is no qualification offered at an intermediate stage, comparable to the German 'Mittlere Reife' or British GCSEs, which is a matter of concern for less academically gifted students.

However, the pluridisciplinarity the EB offers is advantageous to students wishing to go on to university studies, in France and Germany especially. Most of the English section students and a significant minority of students from the other language sections apply to British universities. Recent experience (2011-2012 and beyond) has shown that students applying to British universities are encountering growing difficulties, sometimes serious, in having their Baccalaureate qualifications adequately recognised.

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