The French education system

Date of update

The Ministry for Education defines France’s national educational curriculum. The Ministry is organized on a regional basis:

  • 17 academic regions responsible for maintaining nationwide standards in education policy.
  • 26 mainland academies.
  • Four academies in France’s overseas territories responsible for public service aspects of education (including defining strategy and managing schools and personnel).
  • 17 academic regions rectors.

In France, school is mandatory for all children aged three to 16.

At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, a number of schools opened classes for children aged two.

International school programs are presented here.

 

Different types of school

There are three different types of school:

  • State schools, which are run by the government.
  • State-funded and controlled private schools. These establishments must adhere to the terms and conditions of their contract with the government. In exchange, the government pays their teaching staff. Local authorities fund these establishments to the same extent as state schools.
  • Privately funded schools, which are also subject to government inspections of both their management and teaching; all staff must possess the required qualifications. The teaching provided must comply with French education law and meet minimum standards of knowledge.

Stages in the French educational system

Age Section Class Objectives
3 Maternelle (Kindergarten) Petite section Teaching children to co-exist. At this stage, they develop their spoken language skills and begin to discover the written word, numbers and other areas of learning.
4 Maternelle (Kindergarten) Moyenne section Teaching children to co-exist. At this stage, they develop their spoken language skills and begin to discover the written word, numbers and other areas of learning.
5 Maternelle (Kindergarten) Grande section Teaching children to co-exist. At this stage, they develop their spoken language skills and begin to discover the written word, numbers and other areas of learning.
6 Ecole élémentaire (Elementary school) CP Mastering the French language and basic mathematics are the primary aims of elementary schools, the aim being to equip children with the tools they need to expand their knowledge.
7 Ecole élémentaire (Elementary school) CE1 Mastering the French language and basic mathematics are the primary aims of elementary schools, the aim being to equip children with the tools they need to expand their knowledge.
8 Ecole élémentaire (Elementary school) CE2 Mastering the French language and basic mathematics are the primary aims of elementary schools, the aim being to equip children with the tools they need to expand their knowledge.
9 Ecole élémentaire (Elementary school) CM1 Mastering the French language and basic mathematics are the primary aims of elementary schools, the aim being to equip children with the tools they need to expand their knowledge.
10 Ecole élémentaire (Elementary school) CM2 Mastering the French language and basic mathematics are the primary aims of elementary schools, the aim being to equip children with the tools they need to expand their knowledge.
11 Collège (Junior high school) 6ème “Adaptation cycle”: Consolidating the skills and knowledge acquired in primary school and introducing students to the teaching methods used in junior high school. Learning a foreign language.
12 Collège (Junior high school) 5ème “Central cycle”: Expanding knowledge and applied knowledge. This cycle is notable for the consistent way in which subjects are taught over the two years and the gradual enrichment of the program with optional subjects. A second foreign language is taught starting in the final year (quatrième).
13 Collège (Junior high school) 4ème “Central cycle”: Expanding knowledge and applied knowledge. This cycle is notable for the consistent way in which subjects are taught over the two years and the gradual enrichment of the program with optional subjects. A second foreign language is taught starting in the final year (quatrième).
14 Collège (Junior high school) 3ème “Orientation cycle”: Completing the skills and knowledge acquired in junior high school and preparing students for general, technological and vocational training.
Diploma awarded: Brevet des Collèges
15 Lycée (Senior high school) 2nde The so-called general and technological seconde year offers the same program for all students before they follow general or technological programs in future years. They choose their path at the end of seconde.
16 Lycée (Senior high school) 1ère The première and terminale lead to the baccalauréat examination. The baccalauréat tests the knowledge and skills acquired by students by the end of their high-school years and is the first higher-education qualification.
17 Lycée (Senior high school) Terminale The première and terminale lead to the baccalauréat examination. The baccalauréat tests the knowledge and skills acquired by students by the end of their high-school years and is the first higher-education qualification.
Diploma awarded: Baccalauréat

*When a kindergarten and an elementary school are located in the same establishment, this is referred to as a primary school.

**The general streams are Literature (L), Economics & Social Sciences (ES) and Science (S). The 2021 Baccalauréat will no longer offer a general stream, but only programs chosen by each student. More information is available from the Ministry for Education website.

The technology streams are: STL (Laboratory science and technology), STI2D (Industrial Science and Technology and Sustainable Development), STD2A (Science and Technology of Design and Applied Arts), STMG (Science and Technology of Business Management), ST2S (Science and Technology of Health and Social Care), TMD (Music and dance Techniques), Hotel Management, STAV (Science and Technology of Agronomy and Living Organisms).