Education system in France

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The education system in France includes the country's schools and universities .

The school system is operated more than 90 percent of the public sector. In the higher education sector, non-governmental organizations are more strongly represented in the Grandes écoles . The schools and universities are mainly administered by the 30 “academies”. These can be seen as a counterpart to the regions in education. The education system there is based on the principle of secularism .

School system in France
School system in France

Compulsory education

The compulsory education was introduced in France on 28 March 1882nd Today, due to compulsory education , home tuition and unschooling are also possible (for example called non-scolarisation ). If a child, in agreement with the parents, does not want to go to school, the parents report this to the city, which in this case reviews the family conditions, the health and the learning progress of the child at regular intervals. Around 20,000 children in France are out of school.

All day school

Schools in France are basically all-day schools . Lessons start at 8.30 a.m. and end at 4.30 p.m. or 5.30 p.m. in the Collège and around 6 p.m. in the Lycée. Pre-schools and primary schools also offer follow-up childcare options if the size of the community allows this. All children are offered a canteen meal, the cost of which depends on the parents' income. It is free for children from large families .


The École maternelle is attended by 97% of children in France. It is a state type of preschool, but it also has similarities with the German kindergarten. The école maternelle is not an obligation; However, their visit is free and the lessons are all day; only optional care offers for the off-peak times and lunch are chargeable. Age: 2½ – 6. The École maternelle is an institution with a care, upbringing and educational function. The latter is more in the foreground than is the case in kindergartens in other, for example German-speaking, countries. There is a curriculum set according to national guidelines of the Ministry of Education, which is not binding, whereby the École maternelle is considered a preparatory institution for primary school (école élémentaire). The École maternelle is taught by teachers who have been trained and employed by the national education authority, Éducation nationale . The school principals are also teachers.

Primary school (l'école élémentaire)

The primary school in France lasts five years; the school years are called CP ( cours préparatoire ), CE1 ( cours élémentaire  1), CE2, CM1 ( cours moyen  1) and CM2. Age: 6-11. In grades 1 and 2 there is an educational phase, in grades 3–5 an exercise phase. A foreign language in the sense of Europeanization is taught from the first grade.

Secondary level I.

After primary school, all pupils attend the collège , a middle school, for four years . You will receive lessons in French, mathematics, two modern foreign languages, history-geography-social studies, SVT ( Sciences de la vie et de la terre , a mixture of biology and geosciences), physics-chemistry, technology, fine arts, music education and sport . There is also the option of learning a regional language, Latin or Greek. At the end of the college , the students take an exam through which they receive a diploma, the diplôme national du brevet .

The usual sequence of languages ​​in schools is English in fifth grade (around 90 percent) and as a second foreign language in seventh grade Spanish (63 percent); German as a second foreign language is learned by 18 percent of students with a downward trend.

The French education minister is currently endeavoring to implement a reform of the college for the 2016/17 school year . Because of the feared serious consequences for German as a foreign language in the French school system, this reform has met with considerable resistance from French German teachers and in Germany.

Secondary level II

In the upper secondary level there is the possibility of attending a lycée for three years ; A distinction is made between lycées d'enseignement général et technologiques (general education and technical) and lycées d'enseignement professionnel (vocational training), whereby nowadays both courses are often offered in the same school, the Lycée polyvalent .

Lycée d'enseignement général

Lessons at the Lycée

After a joint lesson for all pupils of this type of school in the first year, the second (10th school year), the pupils decide on the Première (11th school year) and the Terminale (12th school year), the last two years before the Abitur ( baccalauréat ) , for one of three profiles (série) : L ( littéraire , literary), ES ( économique et sociale , economic and social science) or S ( scientifique , scientific). There are numerous other options for decision-making within these profiles. The following subjects are compulsory for all students:

  • French and Literature ( Seconde and Première )
  • Philosophy ( terminals )
  • History-Geography and Citizenship
  • first living foreign language
  • second living foreign language
  • Mathematics (only for S and ES, elective for L)
  • Sport (2 hours)
  • Natural sciences ( Enseignement scientifique , biology and physics / chemistry, only in the Première for ES and L)
  • TPE ( Travaux personnels encadrés ) Only in the première , semester paper on a more or less freely chosen topic

The individual profiles are characterized by their own compulsory subjects, different curricula and different numbers of hours. The respective profile-specific compulsory subjects are:

  • Profile S ( Scientifique ): mathematics, physics-chemistry, SVT ( Sciences de la vie et de la terre , a mixture of biology and geosciences) or SI (engineering sciences)
  • Profile ES ( Economique et Sociale ): economic and social sciences, history, mathematics
  • Profile L ( Littéraire ): Literature, History and Terminale Philosophy.

In addition to these compulsory subjects, all schools must choose another subject within their profile as part of the offer; up to two further subjects can be taken if desired.

Abitur examination (Baccalauréat)

The Baccalauréat is taken in twelve subjects; a reform that should reduce this number to six subjects has been postponed for the time being. The tasks for all subjects are centralized nationwide at the same time. In one to three subjects, the Abitur examination takes place at the end of the première (in all profiles: French; in L and ES: natural sciences; in L: mathematics-computer science). The remaining subjects are examined at the end of the terminals . Depending on the profile, the individual subjects are weighted differently by receiving different coefficients. When calculating the overall Abitur grade, only the achievements in these examinations are used; the achievements in previous years are irrelevant.

In France, the duration of a visit from the Ecole élémentaire to attaining the Abitur is generally 12 years.

Reform of the Lycées

After Xavier Darcos , then education minister in France, announced a reform of the Lycées in 2008, but this encountered resistance, this reform was put on hold. First, Richard Descoings , director of Sciences Po University , was tasked with interviewing students, teachers and parents in France. Some of the results were recorded on his blog (Lycée pour tous). Then, after a cabinet reshuffle in the summer of 2009, the new Education Minister Luc Chatel presented the Reform des Lycées at the beginning of the school year . The new version of the Lycées is much more conservative than the reform proposed by Darcos and broadly follows the Apparu report, which was presented at the beginning of 2009, in which MP Benoist Apparu ( UMP ) presents his reform proposal.


Academic education is shaped by the coexistence of the grandes écoles and the universities . The Grandes écoles can usually only be visited after attending the classe préparatoire , which is usually offered by Lycées. Compared to the universities in France, the Grandes écoles have a better reputation, lower student numbers and more personal attention. The more important of the Grandes écoles include the École polytechnique , the École normal supérieure (ENS), the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) , the École nationale d'administration (ENA) , the École nationale supérieure d'arts et métiers (ENSAM) and the École Centrale Paris . As part of the Europe-wide harmonization of degrees within the framework of the Bologna process , the LMD system is also being introduced at French universities. LMD means that the license (corresponds to the Bachelor ; after 3 years), the Master (after 5 years) and the doctorate (after 8 years) can be obtained one after the other. The traditional national qualifications (DEUG, License, Maîtrise, DEA and DESS ) are to be dropped as part of this process. At the end of 2009, around 2.25 million students were studying at French universities.


  • Annika Blichmann: School reform and reform school in France. The «Ecole élémentaire Vitruve» on the horizon of history . Jena 2008, ISBN 978-3-938203-68-2

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Homeschooling & Co. as an alternative? Retrieved on February 20, 2020 (German).
  2. ^ Mechthild Veil: All-day school with tradition: France . In: From Politics and Contemporary History . B41, 2002 ( [accessed August 26, 2017]).
  3. Alfred Grosser: How different is France? CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52879-1 , p. 221.
  4. ( Memento of the original of December 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Réforme du lycée ( Memento of the original from January 18, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in French @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ Apparu report (PDF; French; 1.3 MB)