A national structure
As of the 2008-2009 academic year, pupils are taught for twenty four hours a week, spread over eight or nine half days. Those with learning difficulties can also benefit from tailored support for two hours a week.
The specificity of the French school system is that pupils have access to nursery education before the age of six, when compulsory schooling begins. It is often divided into three levels, petite, moyenne and grande, according to the age of the children. Although it is optional, nine out of ten children attend nursery school from the age of three.
The curriculum of nursery education (early learning cycle or cycle 1 - up to 6 years old) initial is divided into five areas:
- appropriating language and getting ready to read and write;
- becoming a pupil;
- corporal movement and expression;
- discovering the world;
- seeing, feeling, imagining, creating.
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 the world of writing and that of numbers as well as learning to ‘live together'.
The main priority of elementary education during the basic skills cycle or 'cycle 2' (GS-CP and CE1 0 see inset), is learning the French language and mathematics.
In addition to these core subjects there are foreign languages, activities for discovering the world, artistic practices (visual arts and musical education), the history of art, physical education and, in some schools, a regional language.
The development stage or 'cycle 3' (CE2, CM1 and CM2) is a continuation of 'cycle 2'. New disciplines are introduced in addition to the core subjects, history, geography, experimental science and technology.
Information and communication technology are tools used to support a range of school activities and proficiency in it leads to the first level of the Information technology and internet brevet qualification (B2i).
Schools take into account the different aptitudes of each pupil. In addition to reasoning and intellectual thought, a taste for experimentation, sensitivity, motor skills and creative imagination are developed.
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.