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France:Primary Education

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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

In France, elementary education (CITE 1) is provided in elementary schools, which admit 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. In 2011, the private sector provides schooling to 14.2 % of children at this level (Source : RERS 2012, p. 79).

"The fundamental requirement of the French Republic and the main objective of the primary school is to give children the keys to knowledge and teach them how to integrate with the society in which they are growing up" (extract from the preamble to primary school programmes,Official Bulletin special edition no.3 of 19 June 2008). Its missions are also evoked by the Guidance and Planning Law for the Future of Schools of 23 April 2005 :

  • to guarantee satisfactory mastery of basic skills;
  • to provide equal opportunities to all, and ensure successful integration into French society;
  • to accompany each and every pupil by helping them overcome any difficulties they might encounter;
  • to enable each and every pupil to express their excellence to the full.


Mastery of the French language, understanding of basic mathematical skills and training in social and civic skills are the priorities of primary school education. It also gives time to the learning of a modern language, sports, science, artistic and cultural education and computer science. Elementary schools must guarantee their pupils access to the first stages of the Common Base of Knowledge and Skills set out by the Guidance and Planning Law for the Future of Schools of April 2005.

With regard to its organisation, elementary schooling lasts 5 years, divided into 2 “learning cycles”. Since the guidance law on Education of 1989, skills expected of primary schoolchildren have been fixed by multi-annual cycles, with a view to enabling educational teams to better adapt their teaching to the learning pace of each pupil.
The 5 years of elementary schooling are made up of 2 cycles:

The Basic Learning Cycle, which begins in the final year of nursery school and ensures the transition from pre-elementary (CITE 0) to elementary (CITE 1) education; it continues on for the first two years of elementary schooling:  

  • 1st year: preparatory class (CP – cours préparatoire);
  • 2nd year: first year elementary class (CE1 – cours élémentaire 1).


The Consolidation Cycle, which comprises:

  • 3rd year: second year elementary class (CE2 - cours élémentaire 2);
  • 4th year: first year intermediate class (CM1 – cours moyen 1);
  • 5th year: second year intermediate class (CM2 – cours moyen 2).


At the end of each cycle (in CE1 and CM2 classes) pupils take standardised national tests assessing acquisition of basic skills. Such assessments are “diagnostic” in that they are designed to help teachers pinpoint pupils’ areas of difficulty and provide them with appropriate support.
 (extract from the Official Bulletin special edition no.3 of 19 June 2008).

Reforms and policies


Ensuring the acquisition of basic knowledge by all students is one of the priorities set by the Government in the Guidance and Programming Law no. 2013 – 595 of 8 July 2013. A reform of primary school has been launched in 2012. It consists of a series of measures aimed at ensuring the acquisition of basic learning by all pupils (general rise in the level; reduction of inequalities). These measures are intended for all classes, but schools welcoming the most underprivileged pupils are considered a priority:

- Granting of additional means;

- "More Teachers than Classes" operation;

- School timetables reform;

- Creation of "primary school-lower secondary school" councils;

- Extra teaching activities.