Education system in France

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Overview

Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, although there is plentiful provision and funding for learning beyond both ends of this continuum. The education system is highly centralised with the government-dictated curriculum specifying the subjects to be taught and the maximum and minimum amounts of time to be given to them. 80 per cent of students are educated within the state sector. The majority of those outside this attend religious schools as the state system has been secular since 1882.


Age in years Phase
0 to 2 Education is not compulsory at this stage although some state-funded nursery places are available from 2 years old upwards.
3 to 5 Nursery Nearly all 3 year olds and about half of all 2 year olds attend. Alongside French, maths, music, art and sport, children will also study citizenship, debate and start learning a second language.
6 to 10 Primary Students must be taught for 26 hours per week. The school week runs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning. Lessons are usually from 8am until 12 noon, then 2pm until 4.30pm. Homework and testing are regular features. A large proportion of time is spent on French language and literature, with the addition of history, geography, science and technology.
11 to 14 Le collège
(6e – 3e)
From age 11 the school day becomes longer, not finishing until around 6pm. There is little in the way of extra-curricular activities and no pastoral system to speak of. Students will study many of the same subjects as they do in the UK, with the exception of religious education, which is instead delivered as part of philosophy. At 14, students receive their brevet grades made up of exam results and class marks.
15 to 18 Le lycée
(2nde, 1re,

terminale)

Student study for one of three baccalauréats: the professional one – seen by some as a less academic route –, the technical one and the general one. The general one can itself be split between the specialisms of the arts, the sciences and the economic and social sciences. Those following the professional route may undertake an apprenticeship while studying part-time. There is little movement between the different courses.
19 plus University studies Studies at university can last between 2 and 8 years. The standard universities are accessible with the baccalauréat and offer a wide range of courses. The grandes écoles (perhaps comparable with Oxbridge) are very competitive to get into and graduates who pass the final exams are highly sought after. Some distance learning courses are also available.
24 plus Continuing education There are over 6,000 institutions offering adult education, organised by groups known as Gretas. Courses are both academic and vocational. All must be paid for, although some help with funding may be available locally.

Educational alternatives

Private Schools - 1 in 5 children are educated outside of the state system in France. To promote freedom of choice, private schools do receive government subsidies to make them more affordable and they may also choose to follow the government’s curriculum. The vast majority of children educated outside of the state system attend Catholic schools, with Muslim schools being on the increase. In these schools they are free to wear religious symbols and clothing openly.

International Schools – there are a handful of fee-paying international schools in France where students study for the Internatioal Baccalauréat in a multilingual environment.

Students with Special Educational Needs are often catered for in Special Schools. This is about 5 per cent of the population with a variety of physical, social and emotional as well as learning needs. The government’s aim for these school is that most should achieve a certificate which will allow them to undertake basic vocational training.

In troubled areas around Nice, Marseille and Lyon, a growing number of young people are educated in juvenile detention centres.

References

Bougard, Marie-Thérèse and Bourdais, Danièle (2003) The French Experience 1, BBC Languages.

Carlo, Catherine and Causa, Mariella (2003) Civilisation progressive du français, CLE International.

Dixie, Celia (2004) Teach yourself world cultures: France, Hodder and Stoughton.

French Government’s Education website http://www.education.gouv.fr/ (Visited 30-June-05)

Useful links

The French Government’s Education Website
This official government site provides a mass of information about education in France and is only available in French.
http://www.education.gouv.fr/ (Visited 30-June-05)

French Entrée Website
Detailed and practical information on the education system in France written for those considering moving their family abroad.
http://www.frenchentree.com/fe-education/DisplayArticle.asp?ID=70 (Visited 30-June-05)

The British Council
This site contains links to a large variety of further sites on the topic of education in France.
http://www.britishcouncil.org/france-education-french-education-france.htm (Visited 30-June-05)

Eurydice
A comparative website which looks at the different education systems across Europe. From the homepage many, but not all, sites are available English.
http://www.eurydice.org/Eurybase/Application/frameset.asp?country=FR&language=VO (Visited 30-June-05)

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