Schooling in France

Schooling in France

There are two school systems in France - public and private. They are both closely governed by the French education system and asrcibe to a standard curriculum. Despite private meaning that you must pay for the school, it is often synonymous with being Catholic. It is the calendar year in which your child was born which will determine what class they attend.

The mairie is responsible for enrolling your child into the local public school. If you are choosing to send your child to a public school, your child will be appointed to a school by the mairie - you cannot choose which school the child will attend. Appointment is usually determined by the nearest school to where you live. There is sometimes a little bit of room for negotiation but will be limited to something close by and the depends on the mairie. If you want to send your child to a private school, then where you live does not limit this choice, although it is up to the private school whether to choose to accept the child or not.

To enroll your children in school you need to present yourself at your local mairie with the following basic documents:
-birth certificate
-certificate of vaccinations
-proof of address (bill, rental agreement, etc.)

There are three levels of school in France, which are as follows:

Maternelle is for children up to 5 years, and is much like nursery

Primaire is for children between 5 and 11 and is the equivalent of primary school.

Lycées and Collèges are for children over 11 and form the secondary education of a pupil. There are some differences between the UK and French secondary system which are detailed below:


The collège is the first level of secondary education in the French educational system and prepares children for further study or work. While most of the basic elements are the same as in the UK, teaching does differ in that there are end of year exams to determine whether the pupil can progress to the next grade. Pupils may be asked to repeat a year of study or may even skip one depending on their level of compotency. At the end of the final year students sit the end of year exams- the diplôme national du Brevet. The brevet is not required for entrance to the lycée, nor does passing it guarantee that a pupil will progress to the higher-level school, however it is often used to determine what kind of lycée studies the student will undertake.


The lycée is the second, and last, stage of secondary education in the French educational system. There are three types of lycées that students can enrol at- the lycée général, leading to two or more years of post–baccalauréat studies, the lycée technologique, leading to short-term studies, and the lycée professionnel which provides a vocational qualification leading directly to a particular career. At the end of the final year, most students take the baccalauréat diploma which will then allow them to move onto work or further education.

In the first year, known as the seconde, students will generally study a range of subjects and then choose their specialism which they will then study for the next two years. There are different specialisms which are available depending on the type of lycée. These are given below:

Lycée général

There are three specialisms which students can follow- scientifique, économique et social,and littéraire. Scientifique involves the study of high-level mathematics, physics, and chemistry, économique et social sees students studying a mixture of economics and literature courses and littéraire students take classes in french language, french literature, and philosophy, and to a lesser extent, history, geography and foreign languages.

Lycée technologique

There are eight areas that technologique students can choose to study:

Sciences et technologies de la gestion (Management Sciences and Technologies), Sciences et technologies industrielles (Industrial Science and Technologies), Sciences et technologies de laboratoire (Laboratory Science and Technologies), Sciences médico-sociales (Health and Social Sciences), Sciences et technologies du produit agroalimentaire (Food Science and Technologies), Sciences et technologies de l'agronomie et de l'environnement (Agronomy and Environment Science and Technologies), Techniques de la musique et de la danse (Music and Dance Techniques) and Hôtellerie (Leisure and Hotel studies)

Lycée professionnel

Courses at a lycée professionnel are a little less defined than at other lycées and can involve internships, on the job practical training and placements at companies, as well as classes in anything from motor engineering to hair dressing. Many lycées will specialise in one particular field, e.g fashion and art, so it is worth looking closely at what they offer and whether they are considered to be a highly rated lycée for that subject.


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