You may be wondering, “How does my child fit into the French pedagogy?” That answer will, of course, vary depending on your country of origin. When compared to the British or American educational systems, French students spend more hours at school than in your home country. The French school day (and week) can be long. However, French students may have more frequent and longer breaks during the school day (there’s no school on a Wednesday in Primary or a Wednesday afternoon in Collège and Lycée), leaving ample time to catch up on homework or study for exams. Uniforms are generally not required in public French schools, and our schools are no exception. However, correct attire is required as spelled out in the internal regulations of each school. Common sense should be a reasonable guide: anything provocative, obscene, or which would otherwise interfere with the learning environment should be avoided.

Lunch is served either in the school canteen or students are allowed to leave the school premises to eat at home. As a general rule, lunchboxes are not allowed. Although your child will frequently attend physical education courses, there are very few sports-related extracurricular activities. Rather, sporting activities are relegated to local “associations” that function outside the state educational system.

The French are serious about education, and the system is highly standardised as a result. French children begin school as early as age three, at which time they learn to socialize with other students, gain command of spoken language, and express themselves appropriately within the confines of the classroom.

Primary School (ages 6-11)

Compulsory education in France currently begins at age six. The youngest pupils (age 6-7) focus on the acquisition of French language and mathematics skills. Art, physical education, and the opportunity to begin learning a foreign language also accompany these core competencies. From age 8-11, we find the addition of history, literature, technology, and practical science applications.

Primary school = town council

Lower Secondary School: Collège (ages 11-14)

At the collège level, the primary objective is to prepare students for either lycée or vocational school. The curriculum is organized by subject – French, mathematics, history and geography, civic education, life and earth sciences, technology, art, art history, musical education, physical education, physics and chemistry, and two modern languages constitute the bulk of the coursework. At the end of collège, during troisième, students sit for a national exam known as the “Brevet”. Anglophone Section students sit the DNBI (option internationale du diplôme national du brevet) with oral exams in English and History-Geography. They also start preparing for their iGCSEs (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) in English and History-Geography by submitting coursework that counts for the final mark in the exam that they will sit at the end of the first year of Lycée.

Collège = Inspection Académique de Créteil, Melun

Upper Secondary School: Lycée (ages 15-18)

The final three years of secondary education begin with “seconde”. The number of lesson hours in the Anglophone Section progresses from 6 hours in seconde to 9 in terminale, the last year of secondary education. By the end of seconde Section students prepare for the English Language and Literature and English History-Geography iGCSE. They also consider a course of study for the two remaining years of school. Three primary tracks exist: science, literature, or economic studies. With input from parents and professors, students will be asked to choose one of the above concentrations, should they wish to continue with the Baccalauréat program. At this age, state-sponsored professional and vocational programs are also an option but since the Lycée François 1e does not offer these, Anglophone Section students have to enrol for one of the three main tracks. Première constitutes the first year of concentrated study in a student’s chosen field and marks the sitting of the first exam of the Baccalauréat in French language. At the end of Terminale, the final year of lycée, a student sit for the other subjects of the Baccalauréat exam, which allows for entrance into university. Anglophone Section students have two additional subjects (English and History-Geography) to sit in the OIB (Option International du Baccalauréat) . This highly demanding flagship examination is offered by the French Ministry of Education and moderated by Cambridge International Examinations, which itself is part of the University of Cambridge. Being one of the very first International Sections created by the French Ministry of Education, the Anglophone Section has offered the OIB since the creation of this exam in 1982.

Lycée = Rectorat de l’Académie de Créteil, Créteil

A handy guide for comparison

We know it can be difficult to gauge how your child fits into the French educational system. To better understand the ins, outs, ups, and downs, please read the Ministry of Education’s School Education in France leaflet in English. Or for comparison, consider the table below: