School Education in France

Upper secondary school: le lycée [anglais]

Pupils attend the lycée at the end of 3ème and can take one of three following routes: general, technological or vocational

General and technological routes

To gain access to these routes pupils attend a seconde in a lycée général et technologique. At the end of this year they enter the ‘cycle terminal' made up of première (lower sixth) and terminale (upper sixth). The general route leads holders of the baccalauréat towards extended study whereas the technological routes favour the continuation of higher technological study, mainly in technical careers (over two years) and, beyond, towards vocational bachelors and masters or engineering studies.

How teaching is organised:

Seconde (Year 10): The Initiation Cycle

It teaches all pupils general culture which allows them to discover new literature, artistic, scientific or technological subjects or go on to further study. The second modern language is incorporated into these classes and is compulsory for all pupils. Upper secondary school pupils choose two compulsory exploratory disciplines, one of which is in the field of economics. The second exploratory subject is to be chosen from a list which includes:

  • scientific and technological courses (scientific methods and practices, engineering science, science and laboratories, technological creation and innovation, basic principles of the economy and management and design culture);
  • literary courses (literature and society, languages and cultures of Antiquity, that is Latin or Greek, Modern Language 3);
  • artistic courses (artistic creation and activities).

These choices do not determine access to a particular specialism for the last two years of upper secondary.

Première and terminale: the last two years of upper secondary school

Pupils specialise gradually: they choose a general or technological route. This cycle leads them to the baccalauréat.

At the end of the last year, pupils sit the baccalauréat exam - the first higher education diploma.- which entitles the holder to enter the first year of university study. Some parts of the exam are taken the previous year (for example a French paper in all series).

The vocational route

The vocational route allows pupils to gain vocational skills as well as knowledge and know-how in a given field.

The reform of this route in 2009 helped to raise the qualifications of young people, improve their entry into the world of work and facilitated further study in higher education where relevant.

In the lycée professionnel, pupils attend seconde to prepare for a baccalauréat professionnel over three years or a first year leading to the certificat d'aptitude professionnelle (CAP) over two years.

Part of provision is delivered in the work place. Skills gained during these periods, defined by the framework for each diploma, are assessed through an exam.

At the end of final year of upper secondary, pupils sit the vocational baccalaureate, a national exam that, like other baccalaureates, gives a level IV end of secondary schooling certificate (French classification, see inset).

A level V intermediary qualification (CAP or BEP) is taken in the course of the three year period of study to ensure that each young person gains a qualification.

Through an apprenticeship, young people can also work towards a vocational diploma in a centre de formation d'apprentis (CFA) (Apprentice Training Centres) and with day release to an employer. They have a status of young private sector employee and report to a head tutor or can also work in the public sector.


• Certificate of professional aptitude (CAP): level V, 2 years of study, OVER 200 specialisms;
• Le baccalauréat professionnel (vocational baccalaureat): level IV, 3 years of study, 70 specialisms;
• Le brevet professionnel (BP ): level IV, (only through apprenticeship) 2 years of training after a CAP, 68 specialisms;
• La mention complémentaire (MC: optional qualification): level V or IV, one year after the CAP or baccalauréat professionnel, 57 specialisms;
• Le brevet des métiers d'art (BMA: arts vocational qualification): level IV, 2 years after a CAP in the vocational arts, 26 specialisms.

French classification of the different levels of training

French ClassificationLevel of trainingInternational classification (ISCED*)European qualifications framework (EQF)
Level VI No education beyond the end of compulsory schooling 0
Level V bis Short training lasting a maximum of one year (leaving prior to the final year of the second short cycle) 2
Level V Education equivalent to BEP or CAP 3c 3
Level IV Qualification equivalent to the baccalauréat or brevet professionnel 3 4
Level III BTS, DUT level or end of first cycle of higher education 5b 5
Level II and I Level of comparable with or above that of 2nd cycle of higher education 6

7 and 8

*ISCED: UNESCO's 'International Standard of Classification of UNESCO,
used for inter-country comparisons (classification according to the diploma obtained)

The Reform of Upper Secondary

It relates to several key points:
• the gradual orientation of upper secondary pupils;
• tailored support for all pupils (see inset);
• learning of and proficiency in two modern languages.

Core classes make up around 60% of the timetable of pupils in .première. This reform facilitates changes of course and allows pupils to choose a different series during or at the end of première.
This reform will be completed in all series by the start of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Tailored support

A major reform of the lycée, tailored support is offered to all pupils. It is included in their timetable and does not add to their overall workload.
In seconde and première, the two first years of upper secondary school, tailored support allows pupils to adapt to the demands of work at upper secondary and to learn the methods to prepare them for higher education and develop their career plans. It includes:

  • support for pupils experiencing difficulties;
  • building on existing knowledge or a different approach to the disciplines studied;
  • methodological support;
  • careers guidance.

Last updated May 27, 2013
fermer suivant précédent