Education System and Structure in France

The French education system has many achievements when compared to its European counterparts. It is centralized and provides free compulsory education in the schools; On the other hand at higher levels the education system is diverse that has adapted to new educational methods, modern technologies, and improves its management by decentralizing power. The French educational system is organized and systematic. It nurtures the abilities of students in various disciplines.

Structure of Education in France

Pre-Primary Education

Nursery or kindergarten is referred to as ecole maternelle in France. Children are admitted to kindergarten at the age of 3. According to the French ministry of education, 24 hours of education per week is compulsory at kindergartens.  In kindergartens, children learn to speak, read and write. They are taught basic things such as numbers and letters of the alphabet. The most important part of kindergarten is the grande section which is the year when students are taught how to read.

Primary Education

At primary schools or ecole primaire, children learn cours preparatoire in their first year. They are taught to develop their reading and writing skills. Elementary or primary school is compulsory for children once they have become 6 years old. From 7 to 8 years of age, students learn the Cours elementaire premiere annee.
This is followed by the Cours elementaire deuxieme annee(8 to 9 years), Cours moyen premiere annee (9 to 10 years) and Cours moyen deuxieme annee( final year). Students are taught subjects such as French, social sciences, sciences  and humanities in primary school.

This comprises secondary or junior high school known as college followed by high school or lycee.

Junior High/Secondary School

Education at the junior high/secondary school is divided into four levels of 3 cycles. The cycles are as follows:
  • Orientation ( third grade)
  • Central (fourth and fifth grade)
  • Adaptation (sixth grade)
During the orientation cycle, students are trained well so that they can enter the general, technical or vocational school.

Mandatory courses during this cycle include :

In the central cycle during fourth and fifth grade, students learn more subjects and acquire deeper knowledge of concepts. Students start learning Latin during the commencement of this cycle. Mandatory subjects for the fifth grade are : French, Mathematics, First foreign language, History and geography-civic education, Science and Technology, Arts Education and Physical Education and Sports.

The same compulsory subjects are studied during fourth grade along with an additional second foreign/local language. During the adaptation cycle in the sixth grade, students acquire knowledge in the following mandatory subjects : French, Mathematics, Foreign language, History and geography-civic education, Science and Technology, Arts education and Physical Education and Sports.

Higher Secondary/High School

Pupils over 16 are enrolled at lycees d’enseignement general et technologique (general or technological higher secondary schools) and in lycees professionnels (high schools for vocational training).

Students at the general or technological high schools study for a total of 3 years in the following manner:

 classes de Seconde  First Year
 classes de de Premiere  Second Year
 classes de de Terminale  Final Year

At the end of the final year, students give one of the following examinations depending upon whether they are pursuing general or technical education:
  • Baccalaureat general
  • Baccalaureat technologique
Students at vocational higher secondary schools study for 2 years following which they must attend a certificate course in vocational training called Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle (CAP). After 2 more years of study, they sit for the Baccalaureat professionnel exam.

Higher Education

There are Grandes Ecoles and public universities in France, as well as specialist technical institutions or Instituts Universitaires Technologiques (IUTs). There are three types of higher education institutions in France-Public universities, Grandes ecoles and Technical institutes.

Higher education in France is divided into the following stages/cycles:

 Premier  Lasts for 2 years up to
Diplome universitaire d’enseignement general
 Deuxieme  Includes the third year, attainment of the license and1 year long maitrise
 Troisieme  Postgraduate study. Begins with either of the following diplomas:
  • Diplome d’etudes approfondies (DEA)
  • Diplome d’etudes superieures specialisees (DESS)

Students can opt for universities after appearing in the French baccalaureate or equivalent foreign exam. Those who want to opt for specialized higher education can attend any of the following institutions:
  • Grandes Ecoles
  • IUTs (polytechnics)
  • Instituts universitaires professionalises (IUP) or professional university institutes
The main Grandes Ecoles  in France are the Ecoles d'ingenieurs and Ecoles de commerce for engineering and commerce respectively. More specialist ones include Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS), Ecoles Nationales Veterinaires (ENV) and Institut d'Etudes Politiques (IEP). After completing their education here, students are awarded Diplome d’ingenieur or Diplome de Grande Ecole.

Education at French universities is imparted through 3 cycles which lead to three corresponding levels of qualification often referred to as the LMD
  • Licence(Bachelor’s)
  • Master (Master’s)
  • Doctorat(PhD)
At the Bachelor’s level, students can opt for political and economic science, literature and arts or science. Master’s level studies are more specialist involving the Maitrise (Bac 4) and Master (Bac 5) in the fourth and fifth year respectively. Master’s degree programs are vocational or research oriented. Some of the popular Master’s degrees include Maitrise de sciences et techniques (MST) and Maitrise de sciences de gestion (MSG).

The French educational system is well structured. General as well as technical and vocational education is provided here at different levels.
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