French schooling system
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French schooling system : How does it work ?

The French schooling system is very complete : school is mandatory from 3 years old until 18 years old… YES French children go to school 15 years of their still young life! School used to be compulsory from 6 years old to 16 years old. School from 3 to 6 years old was only optional before and teenagers could start working at the age of 16.

French schooling system : what does the law say?

In 2019, French president Emmanuel Macron decided to lengthen school duration for several reasons (among others):

  • Reduce inequalities between families and give all children the same chances towards success and integration into a class
  • Develop children’s abilities to make them better pupils
  • Fight teenagers’ school dropout
  • Give teenagers the chances to succeed in finding a job by teaching them one if they do not want to go to school anymore

Overall, I do approve this law update. I think that extending education is a good thing. If young children would only start socializing at 6 years old because they were taken care of by their parents or their grand-parents before that age, school can be traumatic (separation from family, meeting other children, noise,…). I also believe that the State should not let a teenager leave school without knowing a job.

Principles of French schools

The French schooling system in general and more particularly public schools must observe the below fundamental principles:

  • The freedom of education, which means that even though school is mandatory, parents can choose which school their child will go to. Diplomas can only be delivered by the state though.
  • Public schools are free of charge (no tuition) and textbooks are also free until the end of junior high school. (Afterwards, in higher classes, parents need to pay for their children’s books)
  • Teachers must be neutral : no personal political point of view nor philosophical ideas should be displayed.
  • Secularism is one of the foundations of the educational system in France. Pupils’ religious believes must be respected and the teaching staff must not talk about their own religion neither do any proselytism.

Public school / Private school / Homeschooling

In France, there are three kinds of school : Public schools, private schools and homeschooling. While public schools are state schools and need to observe the above principles, private schools are not free and can deliver religious courses (in addition to the regular courses). Homeschooling can be provided by the parents. However, a new French law that will be applicable in 2024, states that homeschooling will be more restrictive than it used to be : It will become a permission system instead of a declaration system.

Read also : What is the typical breakfast in France?

The different schools in France

Let’s now learn the different schools throughout the pupil’s journey in France :

  • L’école maternelle (Preschool from 3 to 6 years old)
  • L’école élémentaire (Elementary school from 6 to 11 years old)
  • Le collège (Junior high school from 11 to 15 years old)
  • Le lycée (High school from 15 to 18 years old)

If this article was instructive and if now you know a little bit more about French schooling system, do not hesitate to share it 🙂 And let me know in the comments how the educational system is in your country.

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