Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 7 months ago



One of the most problematic issues facing international families when relocating to France is where to educate our children. Whether to follow the French system or whether to opt for one of the numerous international schools is hotly debated amongst Expats. Whatever your choice, the following sections aim to give an insight into the options available to parents here in France. We also offer you in an insight into homeschooling. an increasingly popular choice among expat families, as well as some options for children with special needs developmental issues.

The French educational system is divided into four main different stages.

Pre-primary Education (L´Ecole Maternelle)
Age 3 -  La Classe des Petits
Age 4 - La classe des Moyens
Age 5 - La classe des Grands

Primary Education (Enseignement Primaire);
Age 6 - Le CP (Cours Primaire)
Age 7 - Le CE1 (Cours Elémentaire Première Année)
Age 8 - Le CP2 (Cours Elémentaire Deuxième Année)
Age 9 - Le CM1 (Cours Moyen Première Année)
Age 10 - Le CM2 (Cours Moyen Deuxième Année)

Secondary Education (Enseignement Secondaire);
Age 11 -  La Sixième 6e
Age 12 - La Cinqième 5e
Age 13 -  La Quatriéme 4e
Age 14-  La Troisième 3e

Higher Education (Enseignement Supérieur(Le Lycee).
Age 15 - Seconde
Age 16 - La Première
Age 17 - La Terminale

Primary and secondary education are predominantly public (private schools also exist, in particular a strong nationwide network of primary and secondary Catholic education). Education has both public and private elements. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Frances education as the 25th best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average.

Schooling in France is mandatory as of age 6, the first year of primary school. Many parents start sending their children earlier though, around age 3 as nursery classes (maternelle) are usually affiliated to a boroughs primary school. Some even start earlier at age 2 in pré-maternelle classes, which are essentially daycare centres. The last year of maternelle is an important step in the educational process as it is the year in which pupils are introduced to reading.

After nursery, the young students move on to primary school. It is in the first year (cours préparatoire) that they will learn to write and develop their reading skills. Much akin to other educational systems, French primary school students usually have a single teacher (or perhaps two) who teaches the complete curriculum, such as French, mathematics, science and humanities to name a few.

Religious instruction is not supplied by public schools. Laïcité (secularism) is one of the main precepts of the French republic. Pupils therefore have civics courses to teach them about la République, its function, its organisation, and its famous motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).

In a March 2004 ruling, the French government banned all "conspicuous religious symbols" from schools and other public institutions with the intent of preventing proselytisation and to foster a sense of tolerance among ethnic groups. Some religious and libertarian groups showed their opposition, saying the law hindered the freedom of religion as protected by the French constitution.

The Brevet des collèges is the first official diploma a pupil has to sit. It is not required in order to enter lycée. Until 2006 the school marks for the whole of the third (4ème) and final year (3ème) were taken into account for a percentage of the mark. The rest of the mark consisted of the final exam, the brevet. Pupils were only tested on French, Mathematics and History/Geography/Citizenship for the exam.

The baccalauréat (also known as bac) is the end-of-lycée diploma students sit for in order to enter university, a classe préparatoire, or professional life. It is generally taken at 18 if the pupil has not repeated a class during secondary school. The term baccalauréat refers to the diploma and the examinations themselves.

**We are currently developing this section. Please send us your children`s experiences of education in France and let us know if you would like to recommend any particular school or nursery**