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France:Overview

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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

 

Key features

The French education system is characterised by a strong central State presence in the organisation and funding of Education. The French education system is regulated by the Department for National Education, Higher Education and Research. It governs within the framework defined by the Parliament, which states the fundamental principles of education. The State plays a major role in governance, as, by long tradition, the French education system is centralised. The State defines the details of curricula at all education levels; it organises the teachers' admissions procedure, defines content, recruits teachers who become civil servants, provides them with in-service training; it recruits and trains inspectors, responsible for controlling the quality of the education system; it is the main funding body of the public education system and subsidises "private schools under contract" which receive approximately 20% of school pupils.

Nevertheless, at local level, and since the start of a process of decentralisation of competences in the administration of the educational system in the 1980s, local authorities have been playing an increasingly significant part in governance, ensuring the material operation of the system (construction and maintenance of school buildings, school transport, supply of educational materials, etc.).

The official language for education is French. Public education is secular and free.

France has a long tradition of pre-primary education: for the past twenty years, almost all children have attended école maternelle (nursery school) from three to six, even though it is optional; it is therefore an integral part of the French education system and falls under the responsibility of the Department for National Education, Higher Education and Research, which sets the curricula.

French pupils are taught the same subjects until the age of 15 within a "collège unique" (ISCED 2). The first stage of specialisation occurs at the end of collège (lower secondary education): pupils are streamed to attend either a general, technological or "professional" lycées. All prepare pupils to take the baccalauréat in three years, marking the end of secondary education: pupils who pass it obtain the State-issued baccalauréat diploma (general, technological or vocational) which opens up access to higher education and entitles them to enrol at university.

Higher education is characterised by the coexistence of two systems: universities, – public institutions that have an open admissions policy, except for Instituts Universitaires de Technologie (IUT - University institutes of technology) or some classes préparatoires intégrées (integrated preparatory classes) – and a non-university sector, including, in particular, Grandes Écoles (Elite Schools), with a highly selective admissions policy open to baccalauréat holders having attended two years of classes préparatoires, themselves highly selective on entry and during the course. Post-secondary non-tertiary education is marginal in France: the only two diplomas of ISCED 4 that the French education system provides combined amounted to less than 10,000 graduates in 2014.

In 2014, the French education system provided schooling for around 15.4 million pupils, students and apprentices (representing about 23% of the national population). All financing parties combined, the national community effort towards education activities was estimated to 146 billion euros the same year (the equivalent of 6.8% of the Gross Domestic Product) (MENESR-DEPP, RERS 2016, p.12/13 and p.324/325).

Stages of the education system

Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 (which corresponds to the start of primary education) and 16 (which does not represent the end of a cycle – see figure below).

  • Pre-primary education (ISCED 02), which is dispensed at “nursery schools” and take children from 2/3 up to 6 years of age. Almost all children attend nursery school from the age of three, even though it is optional. Such schools therefore form – together with the elementary level - an integral part of the French “primary level of education”, which is under the supervision of the Department for National Education, Higher Education and Research.
  • Primary education (ISCED 1), which is provided in “elementary schools” and admits children between the ages of 6 and 11. It marks the start of compulsory schooling, and is secular and free of charge when dispensed in State schools. At the end of this 5-year-course, pupils automatically access to the secondary level of education (there is neither standardised tests nor guidance procedures).
  • Lower secondary education (ISCED 2), which is provided in collèges for 4 school years (pupils between 11 and 15). Education in collèges is compulsory and common to all pupils. The end of the lower secondary education is sanctioned by the Diplôme national du brevet (DNB); however, admission to upper secondary level is not conditional upon success in the DNB. At the end of collège, the school recommends the appropriate scholastic path to families, basing its recommendation on the pupil’s school reports and particular interests. 
  • Upper secondary education (ISCED 3), which is dispensed in “general and technological lycées” or in “professional lycées, which extends over 3 years (pupils between the ages of 15 and 18 years). Upper secondary education provides three educational paths: general path (which prepares pupils for long-term higher studies), technological path (which mainly prepares pupils for higher technological studies) and professional path (which leads mainly to active working life, but also enables students to continue their studies in higher education). The end of upper secondary education is sanctioned by the baccalauréat, and access to higher studies is conditional to its obtention. Pupils at professional lycées can prepare the Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle(CAP – Professional aptitude certificate), a course of study extending over 2 years, after what they can either integrate active working life or prepare the professional baccalauréat in one year.
  • Higher education (ISCED 5 to ISCED 8), which is dispensed in higher educational institutions. These institutions have a wide variety of legal statuses that are listed in the French Code of Education. There are two types of short cycles studies (Sections de Techniciens Supérieurs andDiplôme Universitaire Technologique). Courses dispensed in French higher education institutions have different aims and conditions for admission, but most of them are structured into three study cycles (Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctorate) and in ECTS credits, in compliance with the principles of the Bologna Process.   

Useful links

While Eurypedia provides comprehensive and comparable information, further information may also be found on the websites of the Department for National Education (Eduscol), Higher Education and Research. For all available statistic information about the French education system please refer to the following websites: Facts and Statistical References, The state of Education and The state of Higher Education and Research.

Structure of the national education system

2016 diagram FR.pngsource: Eurydice 2016

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