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 obligatory teaching hours per week, allocated to disciplinary teaching, including 3 hours of complimentary teaching for six-graders and 4 hours at cycle 4. These complimentary teaching classes take two forms and address 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, optional lessons could be proposed to voluntary students.They engage with:

  • a second modern or regional language in the sixth grade ("bilingual programmes") : if so, the teaching of both modern languages must not exceed six hours per week;
  • regional languages and cultures (LCR) from the first year (age 11-12), up to a limit of two hours per week; 
  • languages and cultures of Antiquity (LCA) from the seventh grade (second year, age 12-13) and up to a limit of one hour per week in the seventh grade and three hours per week in eighth and ninth grades; 
  • languages and cultures of Europe (LCE), based on one of the modern languages studied, from the second year and up to the limit of two hours per week;
  • from the start of the academic year 2018, an optional lesson of choral singing of 72 hours a year and at least one hour a week will be offered, gathering students from the sixth to the ninth grades.

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. Most of the time, pupils can choose a modern language (foreign or regional) they have begun to learn at primary school. In the "bilingual" programmes, they engage in a second modern language, foreign or regional.

Within the framework of priority education, all sixth-graders benefit from an educational support aiming at facilitating the adaptation to lower secondary school. This educational support includes sport, cultural or modern languages activities. Since the start of the academic year 2017, the homework assistance, which is part of the educational support, has become "Homework done/ Devoirs faits", to teach the students how to become autonomous in their personal work, in the classroom or at home.

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.

Last updated July 05, 2018
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