Education in France is regulated by the Ministry of National Education (Ministère de l’Éducation nationale, de la Jeunesse et de la Vie associative) http://www.education.gouv.fr. Public schools are funded by the State and are usually free until university level at which time, there are tuition fees, which are quite low. Sometimes, the public funding in the primary levels is not enough to pay for student field trips or activities and parents are asked to participate in the costs of these events. Keep in mind that public schools are free for residents, so parents will have to show proof of residency such as a utility bill. Non-residents will be requested to pay tuition.

While the Ministry of National Education still oversees the programs of international and private schools, funding primarily comes from student tuition. There are schools that are partially funded by the State and also by student fees.

French is the primary language in French schools, although one, sometimes two, foreign languages are required.

The student/teacher ration in France is quite high and teachers sometimes go on strike to protest the large class sizes. It is not uncommon in some of the crowded public schools that one teacher and an assistant will have a class of between 24-30 children. In private institutions, the ration is generally lower.

Here is a simple break-down of the French educational system:

Level Age Remarks
Preschool (ecoles maternelles) 2-6 years This level is non-compulsory, but the French believe in early socialization and most of their children attend from the age of 3. The Maternelle is divided into Petite Section (3-4 yr), Moyenne Section (4-5 yr) and Grande Section( 5-6 yrs).
Elementary Education (ecoles primaire) 6-10 years This level includes 3 courses that everyone follows, the preparatory course (CP, Cours Préparatoire) at 6 years, the elementary course (CE1, Cours Elémentaire 1) at 7-8 years and the intermediate course (CE2, Cours Elémentaire 2) for 9-10 years.
First Cycle (colleges) 11-14 years Student-specific education begins according to each child’s aptitude and interests.
Second Cycle (lycee) 15-17 years Here students prepare for the baccalaureat exam (bac), which, according to the student’s program and aptitudes, may include vocational training.
Higher Education 18 + years The bac is obligatory for university entrance.

There are two important State exams. The first is the national diploma, Brevet des collèges (or brevet), which is the official diploma a pupil has to sit at the end of the first cycle. It is not required in order to enter lycée.

The second is the Baccalauréat (also known as bac), which is the end-of-lycée diploma students sit in order to enter university, a classe préparatoire, or professional life. It is generally taken at the end of the second cycle (age 18 if the pupil has not repeated a class during secondary school).

The admission process varies depending upon whether the school is public or private and on the institution itself. The procedure for admission into public schools is covered in detail in the “Public Schools” section. For private facilties, please refer to the “International Schools” section for details on each individual school. As the process at each of these schools is different, please contact each institution directly for complete information.

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