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France:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

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Overview France

Contents

France:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

France:Historical Development

France:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

France:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

France:Political and Economic Situation

France:Organisation and Governance

France:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

France:Lifelong Learning Strategy

France:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

France:Organisation of Private Education

France:National Qualifications Framework

France:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

France:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

France:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

France:Funding in Education

France:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

France:Higher Education Funding

France:Adult Education and Training Funding

France:Early Childhood Education and Care

France:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

France:Primary Education

France:Organisation of Primary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

France:Assessment in Primary Education

France:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

France:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

France:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

France:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

France:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

France:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Higher Education

France:Types of Higher Education Institutions

France:First Cycle Programmes

France:Bachelor

France:Short-Cycle Higher Education

France:Second Cycle Programmes

France:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

France:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

France:Adult Education and Training

France:Distribution of Responsibilities

France:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

France:Main Providers

France:Main Types of Provision

France:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

France:Teachers and Education Staff

France:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

France:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Management and Other Education Staff

France:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

France:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

France:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

France:Management Staff for Higher Education

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Quality Assurance

France:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

France:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

France:Educational Support and Guidance

France:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

France:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

France:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

France:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

France:Mobility and Internationalisation

France:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Mobility in Higher Education

France:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

France:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

France:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

France:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

France:National Reforms in School Education

France:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

France:National Reforms in Higher Education

France:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

France:European Perspective

France:Legislation

France:Glossary


Fundamental Principles

The French constitution states that it is the duty of the state to “provide free, compulsory, secular education at all levels”. The French school system was founded on general principles that were inspired by the 1789 revolution, built on and perfected by a set of legislative texts from the 19th century to the present day.

Freedom of choice

State schools and private schools that have a contract with the state coexist within the state system. In exchange for signing a public contract, private schools benefit from state support but are subject to regulation and must respect the national curriculum.
The state alone awards diplomas. Exams are set at the national level. 83% of pupils are schooled in the state system and 17% in private schools. A small number of pupils are taught in private schools that have not signed a public contract.

Free Provision

Provision of schooling primary level (pre-premary and primary schools), secondary level (lower secondary collèges and upper secondary general, technological and vocational lycées) is free in state schools. At primary level, local authorities at towns level (the municipalities) pay for textbooks in almost all cases. The State also provides free textbooks in collèges (lower secondary). Theoretically in lycées (upper secondary) textbooks are paid for by parents but in practice the conseils régionaux (regional authorities) cover this cost.

Neutrality

State schooling is neutral: teachers and pupils are required to show philosophical and political neutrality.


Laïcité (secularism)

The French school system has been based on the principle of secularism since the end of the 19th century. State schooling has been secular since the Jules Ferry (after the Minister for State Schools from 1879 to 1883) Education Act of 28 March 1882. Staff have been secular since 30 October 1886. Respect for the beliefs of pupils and their parents means an absence of religious education in the curriculum, the prohibition of proselytising and the secularism of staff. The principle of religious freedom led to the introduction of one day off every week to allow for religious teaching outside school.


The Charte de la laicité (Secularism Charter)



Charte laicité.jpg
Guidance and Planning Law no. 2013 – 595 of 8 July 2013 for restructuring French schools reasserts the important role played by schools in passing on the values of the French Republic. These values include secularism, i.e. the independence of schools vis-à-vis dogmas, in the respect of each person's personal beliefs. In September 2013 the French Government published a "secularism charter" that sets out the meanings and key points of the secularism-at-school principle in fifteen articles (see herebelow). The aim is to provide educational support to the whole of the educational community (inspectors, school heads, teachers and other staff) in teaching pupils about the positive value of secularism – which guarantees both individual freedoms and the common values of society. The secularism charter must be displayed in all schools "in a way that is visible to everyone" (Circular no. 2013-144 of 6 September 2013).


  1. France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures the equality of all citizens before the law, across its territory. It respects all beliefs. 
  2. The secular Republic organises the separation of religions and the State. The State is neutral as far as religious or spiritual beliefs are concerned. There is no State religion.
  3. Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience for everyone. Everyone is free to choose whether or not they believe. It allows for everyone to express their beliefs freely, while respecting other people's beliefs and subject to maintaining law and order. 
  4. Secularism enables citizenship to be exercised by combining individual freedom with universal equality and fraternity in a concern for the general interest.
  5. The Republic ensures that each of these principles is followed in schools.
  6. Secularism at school provides pupils with the conditions for shaping their personality, exercising their free will and learning about citizenship. It protects them from any proselytism and pressure that might prevent them from making their own choices.
  7. Secularism ensures that pupils can access a common, shared culture.
  8. Secularism enables pupils to exercise their freedom of expression as long as this does not encroach upon the smooth running of the school, respect of the French Republic's values or the pluralism of beliefs.
  9. Secularism requires that all forms of violence and discrimination be rejected, guarantees equality between girls and boys and is based on a culture of respect and understanding of other people.
  10. All members of education staff are responsible for teaching pupils about the meaning and value of secularism, as well as the other fundamental principles of the Republic. They ensure that these are applied in the school context. They must bring this charter to the attention of pupils' parents.
  11. Staff have a duty to be strictly neutral: they must not manifest their political or religious beliefs while carrying out their professional activities.
  12. Teaching is secular. In order to guarantee the most objective outlook possible for pupils on the world's diverse visions and on the breadth and depth of knowledge, no subject is theoretically excluded from scientific and educational questioning. No pupil may cite a religious or political belief to challenge a teacher's right to broach an issue on the programme.
  13. No one may refuse to follow the rules applicable in French schools on the grounds of their religious affiliation.
  14. In public schools, the behavioural rules in the different areas, stated in the school rules, are respectful of secularism. It is prohibited for pupils to wear symbols or clothing that ostensibly point to a religious affiliation.
  15. Through their remarks and activities, pupils help to make secularism part of day-to-day life in their school.


Compulsory schooling

Schooling has been compulsory since 1882 Act. This applies to all French or foreign children over the age of 6 and resident in France. Originally the school leaving age was 13 but this was extended to 16 in 1959. Education is mainly provided by state schools and private schools that have signed a public contract. Parents can however, with prior agreement, choose to school their children at home.


Missions of national education policies

The state school system contributes to equality of opportunity and must enable each pupil to develop his or her personality, raise his or her standard of initial and continuing education, integrate socially and professionally, exercise his or her citizenship. School education facilitates the development of the child by allowing him or her to become cultured, preparing him or her for the workplace and exercising his or her responsibilities as a citizen. It is the basis of lifelong education.
According to the Guidance and curriculum planning law no 2005-380 for the futur of schools the main mission of schools, aside from the transmission of knowledge, is to communicate the values of the French Republic. Compulsory schooling must guarantee that pupils have the "necessary means to acquire a common core of knowledge and skills the possession of which is crucial for the successful completion of schooling and the development of a personal and professional identity."