The organisation of the school system

The French school system is organised in several parts. These sections include not only the general descriptions of the school system, such as the levels of schooling, information on teachers, and the role of devolved powers; but also current key figures, general principles of the school system and French schooling overseas. The purpose of this page is to help explain the different key factors that make up the French education system in all its capacities.

  • General principles

    The French constitution states that it is ‘the duty of the state to provide free, compulsory, secular education at all levels'. The French school system was founded on general principles that were inspired by the 1789 revolution, and were added to and have taken shape with a set of legislative texts from the 19th century to the present day..

  • Key Figures (2017)

    This page includes all the current figures of students and teaching staff in schools. This also includes budget and the number of schools across the country. As of 2017, there are 12 million students in French schools.

  • French Schooling Overseas

    The French Ministry of Education works with different organisations and agencies around the world to facilitate French school programmes and to prepare French exams abroad.

  • Devolved powers

    Since the 1980s the State has been devolving powers in order to strengthen the role of local authorities in the management of the school system.

  • Teachers

    Since 2013, teachers can enroll in specific teacher training master's programmes specifically designed for them at teacher training colleges called ESPEs (Ecoles supérieures du professorat et de l'éducation). After completing a two-year master's programme, students can pass different competitive  exams to be recruited to teach in state schools or in private schools. As of 2017, there are 884,300 teachers, both public and private, in the French school system.

  • Table of School System Structure

    Primary School begins at age 3 with non-compulsory Nursery School. Students begin compulsory education at age 6 in Elementary School. They progress to Lower Secondary School at age 11 to Upper Secondary School at age 15 where they have the option of choosing between three baccalaureate programmes: general, technological, and vocational.

  • Primary School

    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.

  • Lower Secondary School: Le Collège

    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.

  • Upper Secondary School: Le Lycée

    After successful completion of lower secondary school, pupils advance to upper secondary school where they complete three years: seconde, première, and terminale. A general education is provided to all students during the seconde level, after which they choose more specific routes in première which will lead to their baccalaureate exam at the end of terminale. Students have the choice between three potential schooling routes: general, technological, and vocational.

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