Ten things to know about school in France



  1. There are four tiers of school in France, Maternelle (nursery 4-6 years), Primaire (primary 6-11 years), College (secondary 11-15 years), Lycée (sixth form 15-18 years)
  2. The majority of children in France go to their local and usually closest primary and secondary school which are state funded and controlled
  3. Private education only really exists in terms of Catholic schools which are deemed ‘private’ but teachers are employed and paid by the state and fees are around €100 per term. There is also a very small network of high fee-paying private schools and international schools
  4. Formal schooling doesn’t start until six years of age in France but then the school day is long; 8am – 5pm although there is only morning school on Wednesdays
  5. There is no headmaster or headmistress as such in French schools; teachers are answerable directly to the regional education authority and a teacher is designated ‘director’ for administrative tasks each year. Secondary schools have a non-teaching, full-time director in charge
  6. Children do not wear school uniform in French schools
  7. French schools are strictly secular (unless designated Catholic and hence private) and no celebration of religious festivals is permitted
  8. French schools tend to put a great deal of emphasis on the core subjects of French and Maths with less time given to imaginative/creative subjects. There also tends to be a fair amount of learning by heart, especially in the case of poems and dictation
  9. Children often have to repeat a year during their school lives to ensure they have reach expected levels but there is no shame attached to this.
  10. Many children (often more than 50%) go home for lunch with their parents. Others eat in the school restaurant which is paid for by the family and is made up of a three course, balanced meal. Packed lunches do not really exist unless taken for a school outing


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