The organisation of the school system

Lower Secondary School: Le Collège [anglais]

Lower secondary school educates all pupils after primary school. There, they follow four years of schooling, age 11 to 15. Educational teams have autonomy to adapt their pedagogical practices to the needs of their environment and, in this way, facilitate learning of these key competences by their students.

All students are taught 26 hours per week, divided into disciplinary teaching (22 hours) and complimentary teaching (4 hours), which takes two forms and addresses the contents of teaching in a diversified way:

  • personalised accompaniment (AP) supports the ability to learn and progress by developing student autonomy and various transversal skills;
  • interdisciplinary practical lessons (EPI) which aim to build and deepen knowledge and skills through a project approach leading to a concrete, individual or collective achievement.

Furthermore, complementary lessons could be proposed to voluntary students. They engage with a second modern or regional language, with regional languages and cultures (LCR) from the first year (age 11-12), then with languages and cultures of Antiquity (LCA) or with languages and cultures of Europe (LCE) from the second year (age 12-13).

These teaching periods are adjustable within the year or cycle, conforming to the project of the establishment, in identical fashion for all students at the same level.

Programmes for Compulsory Schooling

Programmes of compulsory schooling prioritise the mastering of key competences. These programmes, designed in cycles of three years, feed into each of the 5 domains of the Common Core of Knowledge, Skills and Culture. They define the contribution of each discipline or lesson to the 5 areas of the Common Core. The intersections between the different lessons are explained in order to guide the interdisciplinary work, which reinforces the meaning of the learning. These programs are adapted to the contemporary challenges of society, offering, in particular, learning two modern languages starting in second year, as well as integrating the digital dimension in its different aspects, from the point of view of technological tools and the introduction of coding.

Cycle 3 (consolidation cycle)

Cycle 3 makes the transition from primary school to the first year of lower secondary, reinforcing the continuity and consistency of learning between them. The "Sixième" class (first year of lower secondary) therefore occupies a particular place in this cycle, allowing pupils to adapt to the pace, educational organization and lifestyle of lower secondary school while continuing on from CM1 and CM2 (Cours moyen 1ère année, age 9-10 and Cours moyen 2e année, age 10-11). The introduction to academic subjects is marked by the transition from a single teacher covering all subjects in primary school to one teacher per subject in the first year of lower secondary school. Subjects covered include French, Modern Languages (foreign or regional), art, Music, History of art, Physical and sport education, Civic and moral education, History and Geography, Science and Technology, and Mathematics.

Within the framework of priority education, all sixth-graders benefit from an educational support aiming at facilitating the adaptation to lower secondary school and learning to become autonomous in their personal work.

Cycle 4 (further learning)

Cycle 4, which goes from "Cinquième" (second year of lower secondary) up to "Troisième" (fourth year of lower secondary school) is the last stage of compulsory education for all pupils: at the end of this cycle, pupils must have acquired sufficient mastery of the knowledge and skills defined in the Common Core to successfully continue their education, whichever baccalaureate pathway they choose next. During Cycle 4, abstract thinking, in both knowledge and approaches, will occupy an increasingly important role. Pupils gradually learn to use critical thinking and their capacity for judgement. The objective is to gradually increase their autonomy, in terms of individual work and group projects carried out in class, and develop their thought processes. Subjects covered include French, Modern languages (foreign or regional), Art, Music, History of art, Physical and sport education, Civic and moral education, History and geography, Life and Earth Sciences, Physics and Chemistry, technology, Mathematics, and Media and Information education. Cycle 4 is also when pupils prepare to make their initial choices about their future career.

Pupils experiencing difficulties when entering lower secondary school can benefit from a personalised support and an adjustment in learning patterns, within the framework of a referral unit providing and adapted secondary schooling. At the end of their schooling in these sections, they can write the Certificate of general education (Certificat de formation générale - CFG), which partially validates the Common core of knowledge, skills and culture, and the ability to thrive in a social and professional environment. Some of them can write the DNB as well.

Where requested by parents, nineth-graders are also given the option of vocational discovery classes providing 216 annualised hours of vocational discovery (i.e. three hours per week) with a specific organization of the learning activities. This option is open to pupils motivated by a professional project.


The methods of evaluation favour a constructive evaluation, simple and readable, which valorises progress, supports motivation and encourages the initiative of pupils. 

The online report card (livret scolaire unique - LSU) makes it possible to monitor the scholarly achievements of pupils from age 6 to 16, including if pupils change schools. It gathers periodic assessments and end-of-cycle reports, as well as certifications.

The National Diploma of Brevet (DNB) evaluates the knowledge and skills acquired at the end of lower secondary school. This includes the path of Citizenship Education, career guidance, and art and culture as well as other core disciplines. It is based on continuous assessment and consists of three compulsory formal exams completed at the end of cycle 4 (last year of lower secondary, 14-15 years):

  • an oral presentation on a project carried out in the context of a project, a cross curricular project (EPI) or one of the educational pathways;
  • a written exam analysing French, history and geography, and moral and civic education;
  • a written exam analysing mathematics, physics-chemistry, life and earth sciences, and technology.

The result of the National Diploma attests to the mastering of the Common Core of Knowledge, Skills and Culture.

Last updated November 23, 2017
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