Overview and Profile: Education in France

Officially the Republique francaise or the French Republic, France is located in the western part of the European Union. The population of France totals 63126000 (UNESCO, 2011). It is one of the largest and most developed nations in the EU. French general Napoleon Bonaparte laid the foundations of France’s education system. Jules Ferry is the founder of the modern, secular and progressive educational system in this nation. According to the 2012 PISA survey, France is 25th in the world when it comes to mathematical skills of students. It also ranks 21st for reading skills and 26th in science among the nations in the world. The literacy rate in France is 99%.

Key Statistical Figures in the Educational System

Number of Educational Institutions

According to the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports in France, there are 15686 public and 129 private kindergartens, as estimated in 2011 to 2012. As per the Ministry’s estimates, there are 64300 primary, secondary and high schools including both public and private institutions in this nation (2011).

Higher education institutions in France include public universities and Grandes Ecoles. There are 31 public universities in France as of March 2013, according to the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports in France.  There are also 250 Grandes Ecoles in this nation currently. The Ministry estimates that there are 112 specialist technical institutions in France known as Instituts Universitaires Technologiques.

Public Education Expenditure in France

Total public education expenditure in France adds up to 139,4 billion Euros(Ministry of National Education, Youth And Sports, 2012).  This is about 6.9% of the GDP(Gross Domestic Product). Per capita expenditure on education equalled 2130 Euros, according to the Ministry (2012).  Average expenditure per student adds up to 7700 Euros, as per Ministry estimates. Public education expenditure for the year 2010 at different levels of education is presented below(UNESCO) :

Distribution of public education expenditure per level (in percentage terms)

 Primary 20
 Secondary 45
 Tertiary 23

Number Of Students And Teachers

Total Number Of Students

The Ministry has estimated that there are 2,561,848 pupils enrolled in private or public kindergarten (2011-2012).  According to the Ministry, the total number of primary school students in France in the period from 2012 to 2013 is 12140900. Out of these, about 10089200 were in public schools.  There were 3312300 secondary school students for the same period (Ministry of National Education, Youth And Sports, 2012-2013).  There were 1452200 students in general and technological high schools. As per Ministry estimates, there were 657500 students enrolled in vocational high schools from 2012-2013.

In 2012-2013, 1468300 students were enrolled in universities at France as compared to 1456100 in 2011-2012. There was an increase of 0.8% in the enrolment rate.

Total Number of Teachers

Total number of teachers at schools in France equals 841700, according to the Ministry of National Education (2012-2013). This includes teachers who are under private contracts. Out of 841700 teachers, 705400 are working at public schools.

Gross Enrolment Ratio

UNESCO has also provided gross enrolment rations for pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary education in France(2011):

 Educational Level Male Gross Enrolment Ratio (%) Female Gross Enrolment Ratio (%)Total Gross Enrolment Ratio (%)
 Pre-Primary 110 109 110
 Primary 108 108 108
 Secondary 109 110 110
 Tertiary 51
 64 57

Education System

The French educational system is one of the best in the world. It is well organized and systematized. The system of education is carefully monitored and regulated by the French education ministry or the Ministere de l'Education nationale, de la Jeunesse et de la Vie associative.

Primary and secondary education lasting from 6 to 16 years of age is compulsory for all students in France. Children are enrolled in kindergarten at 2 to 3 years by their parents. All children who attain the age of 6 must be sent to elementary school.

Higher education in France is open to those who have obtained their baccalaureate ( baccalaureat )or high school diploma. They can enrol at public universities or Grandes Ecoles for further studies.

Opportunities For International Students

France is one of the popular study destination with around 278,000 students arrive at this nation for higher studies each year. It ranks fourth most popular destination for foreign students according to Campus France, which is the national agency for the promotion of education among international students in France.  International students must also enrol in a programme carried out by Campus France known as CEF procedure or the Centres pour les Etudes en France. Campus France is officially called the Agence pour la Promotion de l’Enseignement Superieur, l’Accueil et la Mobilite Internationale/National Agency for the Promotion of Higher Education, International Student Services and International Mobility.

There are around 600 postgraduate programmes in France that are taught in English so generally speaking, candidates for these courses are not required to speak French. Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts, Design are the  popular courses taken up by foreign students but research Engineering  have put France in the bracket of high profile and knowledge education.

Standardized Tests and Examinations

Standardized tests are essential part of evaluation and entry to higher education competitive courses from high schools onwards. After completion of kindergarten and primary school, students are enrolled into secondary school without any entrance examinations. High school education is provided at lycees d’enseignement general et technologique (general and technological high schools) and lycees professionnels (high schools for vocational training).

Some of the common standardized tests and examinations conducted in France include the following:

Brevet des colleges: Also referred to as the Diplome National du Brevet, this is one of the first official examinations pupils face. Students must pass 3 tests in the following subjects:
  • French
  • Mathematics
  • History, Geography And Citizenship
Since 2011, students also have to take an oral exam pertaining to cultural history.

Baccalaureat: This examination is given by students once they finish their education at the lycee. There are 3 different kinds of  Baccalaureat examinations depending upon the type of high school the students are enrolled at:
  • baccalaureat general
  • baccalaureat technologique
  • baccalaureat professionnel
Students must give this exam to pursue higher education at universities.


The education system is monitored and designed to assure students acquire critical thinking skills. The French educational system focuses on training students to become proficient in academic as well as technical subjects. France emphasizes educational growth.
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