Understanding French particularities
Education and related costs
State education is free and compulsory
French schools represent a free public service. Education is compulsory for all children aged six to sixteen, whatever their nationality.
Primary and secondary education
After three optional years at a nursery school (école maternelle) from three years of age, education is divided into two levels. Firstly, primary school, divided into five classes, starting the year in which the child turns six:
- preparatory class (CP),
- elementary classes 1 and 2 (CE1, CE2),
- intermediate classes 1 and 2 (CM1, CM2).
Children then move onto secondary school, divided into seven "classes":
- sixième (1st year of secondary education), cinquième (2nd year), quatrième (3rd year), and troisième (4th year), taught in the college,
- then seconde (5th year), première (6th year) and the final class, called terminale, taught in a "lycée".
Parents pay for the child’s school supplies (such as paper, pencils, etc.) and lunchtime meals. In some regions, school text books used in the lycées are not provided by the school either.
Enrolling at a state primary school is done at the town hall (mairie) of the parents' place of residence. For secondary education, parents need to meet with the head of the school appropriate to their child's age: i.e. either at the collège or the lycée closest to the place of residence. The head will supply the parents with the enrolment forms and all necessary information.
Free public education, paying private schools
Parents can choose to enrol their child in a private school. In this case, a fee is payable, but the general organization and the curriculum are the same as in the state schools.
Private schools can also have a specificity, such as teaching a religion, one or more foreign languages or specialised teaching (gifted children, children with disabilities, etc).
Each private school sets its own fees.
Foreign children who don't speak French initially must first attend a specific French language learning class and are later transferred to the class corresponding to their age.
© All Contents, Laurence de PERCIN, janvier 2014.