Amcham: How long have you been at the helm of EHTL, what changes have you made, why have you made them and what have been the results?
Michel Lanners: This spring 2023, I am entering my 6th year at the helm of EHTL. A lot has changed during the last years. On must notice that a change of governance frequently leads to changes on management and organizational levels. One of the first actions was to rename the institution in École d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme du Luxembourg (EHTL) to be able to better promote the DNA of the school and to contribute to a positive image of the hospitality sector. I am convinced, and feedbacks are luckily proving too, this is more appropriate for an institution which has a lot of international activities. In that context, we also developed a new leitmotiv, “Striving for excellence” that better defines the ambition, the dynamic and the new modernity of the school.
In recent years, the aim has been to attract more students to the hospitality sector and to provide them with interesting job opportunities. Therefore, the range of courses has been expanded and completed. Since 2018, we offer a Diploma of general secondary studies (ESG), as well as a Certificate of Advanced Technician in Hospitality Management (BTS). English became a teaching language at BTS level, but also in vocational training to give English native speakers the possibility to enter the school and obtain a qualification in the hospitality sector in Luxembourg and possibly continue their studies.
Last year, we launched a four-year training course in tourism and communication. With a view to accessing higher education, from this spring onwards the school, in collaboration with the chamber of employees (CSL) – Luxembourg Lifelong Learning Centre, the Chamber of Commerce – House of Training, the University of Lorraine (IAE Metz), is finally offering a Bachelor’s degree in Management. This ambitious course will run concurrently over a period of two years. Graduates can afterwards continue their studies towards a Master’s degree if they wish.
I would say that it is important for students to participate in projects that stimulate their practical skills. They are encouraged to participate in competitions, but also in large-scale projects, such as the EXPO 2020 in Dubai. During this world exhibition, the EHTL students were given the opportunity to help running the restaurant in the Luxembourgish pavilion.
If I had to take stock of the last few years, I would say that the school progressed a lot and managed to position itself appropriately in the educational context of Luxembourg. But the evolution is not over yet. We have plenty of new projects ahead of us and we are eager to share them.
What additional changes are still to come?
EHTL is going to be involved in the next world EXPO, which will take place in Osaka in 2025. Ongoing activities in the international context are the participation in hospitality competitions and the cooperation with other educational institutions to give the students but also the teachers the possibility to evolve in a dynamic and international context.
Please explain to our readers the story behind this prestigious award designation EHTL recently has been given.
Selecting the EHTL as an Apple Distinguished School underlines that we have been creating an innovative and stimulating learning environment. This engages students, improves academic achievement, and gives the teaching and learning process much more flexibility.
EHTL aims to be modern, dynamic, and ambitious. Since September 2018, it has been fully implementing the national ‘one2one’ strategy. This project marked a turning point in the way teaching and learning are conceived at EHTL. All pupils, students and teachers were equipped with iPads. All our courses were digitalized, and in a second step, this pedagogical content was expanded by videos and tutorials. In the third step the content was reviewed from a graphic point of view. The EHTL is now able to present a very attractive learning tool.
One2one is part of the school’s DNA and the foundation for 21st-century learning is being laid. Since the start of the academic year 2020/2021, blended learning has been introduced at EHTL: that is to say, students can alternate between face-to-face and distance learning courses. The aim of blended learning is to allow more flexibility to take the students’ needs and abilities into account, but also to enable and encourage them to work semi-autonomously and to give them additional responsibility for the management and success of their studies.
To meet the training needs of blended learning, LearningBoxes have been built at school. These connected and collaborative learning spaces are equipped with an Apple TV and allow learners to work on their own or in small groups.
Inspired by some leading-edge schools, the EHTL now has gained new expertise that may be of interest to other institutions and is once again living up to its motto: ‘Striving for excellence’.
What is your educational philosophy?
This is a very tricky question which cannot be answered easily in five sentences. I will try to be brief. The philosophy of our education aims to combine the latest learning and teaching knowledge with a permanent focus on social and professional developments in our society to be able to deliver up to date training to the students. A ten-week internship per year allows teachers and students to better understand the challenges of a fast-changing society.
Tell us about your students and their needs
Students need real perspectives on a professional and on a personal basis. The EHTL’s mission is to give them the competencies to combine and manage both with responsibility. If we define education and training this way, consequently we need to have a good knowledge of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. I don’t think that this is very easy to do in a world that is changing at a rapid pace. We should keep in mind that educational essentials – the needs as you say – have evolved. Values have changed, traditions are questioned, and I would like to quote in response to the question of the needs, a German songwriter Wolf Biermann, who holds that “Only those who change remain true to themselves” – and I agree with him.
Your students appear to be very polite and considerate … and they wear uniforms. How has this reality come about?
The EHTL has clearly defined rules concerning the clothing, which is a part of the hospitality codex of the school in its school Charta. However, it’s not all about clothing, it’s more about how you want to be considered by others. In fact, it’s much more about attitude than clothing. You can be polite, reactive, and friendly without wearing a uniform, but the uniform contributes to understanding the basics of hospitality competence.
The relationship between EHTL and the Horesca sector appears to be very close. This does not appear to be the case in the relationship between other schools and employers. How and why have you been successful in achieving this closeness and what dare the positive consequences for the school, the students and the companies in your sector of activities?
The attachment to the sector is indeed one of our strengths and it differentiates us from most other secondary schools in Luxembourg. From the beginning onwards, students are put into close contact with the professional world which only can be artificially imitated or replicated at school. The professionals in education, I mean the teachers, are not supposed to be professionals in the sector, but they are supposed to be excellent in understanding the needs of professionals in the hospitality sector and moreover competent in preparing their students for professional challenges afterwards.
How do you motivate your students to work hard and be the best they can be?
Well, we all try to be in some way models, but believe me, it is not always possible, and sometimes it is quite hard to do. Light is shed on errors and failures at our school in a constructive way. To make learning happen efficiently, it is important to provide feedback by creating a positive ambiance of educational caring.
Are there lessons learned at your schools that can cost-effectively be applied to other schools serving other sectors. If so, please share them.
There are plenty of lessons but there are also plenty of reasons not to develop these lessons to avoid a slightly arrogant impression of “better-knowing everything”. I think that a shared challenge of every teacher should be to have a clear but also critical view of the needs and lacks of the students. If you manage to understand the potential of educational goals today, the constraint of sticking to a structured school programme is low and gives you the possibility to adapt to the needs of every student. A side effect of such a way to act is that teachers will receive much more satisfaction during their work.
Amcham would like to Thank Michel Lanners for this very insightful interview!!