A Guide to Education and Schooling in France
May 6, 2011 Study Abroad 1997 Views
How education in France is structured
Maternelle (Nursery) not compulsory
age 3 > 4 = Petite Section
age 4 > 5 = Moyenne Section
age 5 > 6 = Grande Section
Ecole Primaire (Primary) compulsory
age 6 > 7 = Cours Preparatoire or CP (11e)
age 7 > 8 = Cours Elementaire premiere annee CE1 (10e)
age 8 > 9 = Course Elementaire deuxieme annee CE2 (9e)
age 9 > 10 = Cours Moyenne premiere annee CM1 (8e)
age 10 > 11 = Course Moyenne deuxieme annee CM2 (7e)
age 11 > 12 = Sixieme 6e
age 12 > 13 = Cinquieme 5e
age 13 > 14 = Quatrieme 4e
age 14 > 15 = Troisieme 3e
age 15 > 16 = Seconde 2e
age 16 > 17 = Premiere 1e
age 17 > 18 = Terminale Term/Tle
1 Whilst education is compulsory from age 6 up to age 16, at age 15 the student can decide to either attend Lycee until the age of 18 (to gain the Baccalaureat), or choose a shorter vocational option at a different institution. Although education is compulsory from the age of 6 most children do attend from 2 1/2 or 3 years old either on a part time or full time basis as long as they are toilet trained.
Key Points to Note:
Registering your child -
The age of your child at the end of the calendar year will determine which class they enter, whilst the school year runs from Sept to July (ie children born in 2002 will be in the 2008/9 CP class).
Registering your child - For Maternalle and Primaire you can register your child at the local Mairie, and for secondary school you will need to contact the administrative head of the educational district (Rectorat).
To register you will need to take along the childs birth certificate, proof of parents identity (copy of passports), health records (children need to be vaccinated against tuberculosis (BCG), diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP) and Polio), utility bill showing home address, and copy of insurance policy (assurance scolaire). Some schools may insist documents are translated into French.
The School Day -
Maternalle and Primaire schools follow a 4 day (24 hour) week, over Mon, Tue, Thu and Fri. An extra 2 hours per week is available to children with difficulties. Typically the hours are 9am to 4.30, with a leisurely 90mins for lunch.
At Maternalle and Primaire level, your child can either use the canteen, or be collected and taken home for lunch. There are usually no packed-lunches allowed.
For secondary schools, typical times are 8.30am to 5pm with 90mins for lunch, but this will vary. Also variable are the days of attendance, depending on the area. However, in most areas there is no school on a Wednesday afternoon, and children generally follow a hobby or sport, with many clubs geared up for Wednesday sessions.
Most schools operate a school bus service (details can be obtained from the Mairie).
At all levels Children are evaluated at the end of each term, and the teacher may recommend either advancing a year, where students are performing very well, whether they are on course to pass the year, or whether the year will need to be repeated (redoublement). The latter is quite common, and this is designed to help the child progress, and without any stigma attached.
There are two kinds of private education options available -
Sous Contrat is a private school with publicly funded teaching staff, following the national curriculum. Parents are asked to pay an annual fee as low as 400 euro.
Hors Contrat describes a private school not funded by the government, and who are free to set their own curriculum, but fees can start from around 8,000 euro per year.
Students who choose to complete their secondary education at Lycee, will go on to sit the Baccalaureate (which is the equivalent of A-Levels in England and Wales) in order to enter university. Other options are to take a shorter Brevet dEtudes Professionel (BEP), or a Certificate d'Aptitude Professionelle (CAP), both vocational options.
Higher education is split into two main categories:
Grandes Ecoles - These are considered prestigious institutions, and selection exercises are very competitive. These focus on single subject areas (such as engineering) and produce the elite of the various professions.
Universities - Traditional universities
Universities in Poitou Charentes
University of Poitiers - Founded originally in 1431 by Pope Eugene IV, this university is the beating heart of the Capital of Poitou Charentes. The institution covers most major fields through its network of departments, institutions and faculties.
University of La Rochelle - Founded in 1993, this is the youngest university in France. Three main schools focussing on Languages, Arts and Human Sciences, but also linked to other business-focussed colleges.