The organisation of the school system

Primary School [anglais]

Primary School consists of Nursery school and Elementary school. Obligatory schooling begins at age 6 in elementary school, however, most French pupils begin their schooling at Nursery school, age 3.

Since 2008, all students are taught 24 hours per week. Complementary pedagogical activities (APC) are organised in small groups, in order to help pupils experiencing difficulties, to support other pupils' personal work or to implement an activity within the framework of the school project.

Nursery School

Nursery school gives students an environment where they can establish the pedagogical skills upon which their future education is founded. They are organised around a single cycle, adapted to the pupils' natural rhythm and activities at home. Although compulsory schooling does not begin until elementary school at age 6, nine out of ten children attend nursery school starting at the age of 3.

The main purpose of nursery education is to allow pupils to develop their full potential and to have a successful first experience of school. The emphasis is on the acquisition of language and its development, the discovery of words and numbers, as well as learning about the world around them.

Cycle 1 (early learning cycle)

Lessons learned during Cycle 1 have been organised into five areas which work with the natural development of the child :

  • language usage
  • self-expression through physical activities
  • self-expression through artistic activities
  • starting to develop the tools to structure thinking
  • exploring their environment

In order to facilitate pupils' transition from nursery school to elementary school, teachers pass on summaries of students' achievements and an up-to-date online report card is created, both to monitor and record students' progress for teachers and parents.

For more information on the new French Nursery school organisation implementation, click here.

Elementary School

Students begin acquiring the Common Core in elementary school. The teaching programmes of compulsory schooling prioritise the mastering of fundamental skills and ensure a gradual and continuous learning of knowledge and skills by the pupils.

The Common Core of Knowledge, Skills, and Culture

Students begin aquiring the Common Core in elementary school. Designed to identify the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes necessary for student to be successful in their schooling, personal life, and life as a future active citizen, the Common Core is taught through different pedagogical methods and courses. For example, students will start to develop critical thinking skills in their Moral and Civic education course. The Common Core is taught to students age 6-16, where they begin learning about it in elementary school first;

To learn more about the Common Core, click here.

Subjects and disciplines

In elementary school, students are taught several different subjects and disciplines. They learn: French, a modern language, art, music, physical education and sports, moral and civic education, history-geography, and math. Each of these subjects is taught so that students learn not only basic facts and information, but the methodology on how best to learn and engage with this new material. Some skills which hope to be developed and drawn out of these subjects include: critical thinking, oral and written comprehension, mathematical and spacial comprehension, reasoning, language learning, personal and emotional expression, following the rules and being responsible, adapting to various environments, and how to work individually or as a team to achieve certain goals.

Cycle 2 (fundamental learning cycle)

During Cycle 2, pupils examine and try to understand the world. Priority is given to the mastery of languages, in particular French, in order to reinforce pupils' communication and social skills. Through language, they learn to make connections between different subjects and disciplines, and to give meaning to their instruction. In Cycle 2, students also begin to learn a foreign or a regional language. Furthermore, they are taught how to complete basic learning activities and to justify rationally their answers and approaches. Through memorization activities, activities that allow running approaches and basic skills automatically, and comprehension activities, they gradually access to more complex knowledge.

Cycle 3 (consolidation cycle)

During Cycle 3, pupils reinforce and stabilise the base knowledge learned in Cycle 2, particularly language proficiency, which is essential to learning other subjects such as French, mathematics, art and body expression. Students are gradually introduced to academic subjects and their specific knowledge, language, approaches and methods, especially history and geography, science and technology. Their capacity for abstract analysis increases and they begin to produce and structure their thoughts by taking in new knowledge.

Schools take into account the different aptitudes of each pupil. As well as reasoning and intellectual reflection, other skills are developed, such as observation skills, experimentation, sensitivity, motor skills and creative imagination.

Support for Pupils Experiencing Difficulties

'Tailored' responses for pupils experiencing difficulties in the form of two hours support is provided by teachers every week.

Refresher classes aimed at pupils in the last two years of primary school (CM1-CM2)who show serious shortcomings in French and maths are provided in addition to the tailored support. These courses are spread over three periods: one week over the spring holidays and the first and last week of the summer holidays. They take place over five days with three hours of daily teaching tailored to the needs of the pupil.

Educational Support is aimed at pupils from elementary schools in priority education zones and is provided after class. The scheme offers help with homework and classwork, practising a modern foreign language or a sport or familiarisation with art and culture. It is a 'bridge' between the school and the family.

Last updated November 23, 2017
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