Secondary education in France

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Lycee in Vesoul Vesoul Lycee des Haberges.jpg
Lycée in Vesoul

In France, secondary education is in two stages:

Secondary education education for most teenagers

Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education scale. Level 2 or lower secondary education is considered the second and final phase of basic education, and level 3 (upper) secondary education is the stage before tertiary education. Every country aims to provide basic education, but the systems and terminology remain unique to them. Secondary education typically takes place after six years of primary education and is followed by higher education, vocational education or employment. Like primary education, in most countries secondary education is compulsory, at least until the age of 16. Children typically enter the lower secondary phase around age 11. Compulsory education sometimes extends to age 19.

Baccalauréat French diploma

The baccalauréat, often known in France colloquially as bac, is an academic qualification that French students are required to take to graduate high school. Introduced by Napoleon I in 1808, it is the main diploma that is required to pursue university studies.

School year

The school year starts in early September and ends in early July. Metropolitan French school holidays are scheduled by the Ministry of Education by dividing the country into three zones (A, B, and C) to prevent overcrowding by family holidaymakers of tourist destinations, such as the Mediterranean coast and ski resorts. Lyon, for example, is in zone A, Marseille is in zone B and Paris and Bordeaux are in zone C.

French school holidays are the periods when schools in France, and all the pupils in them, have a holiday. The dates are fixed nationally by the Ministry of Education for a period of three years. Holiday dates are given as a Saturday date "after classes", as some schools have lessons on Saturday mornings, and return on a Monday morning.

Lyon Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France. It is located in the country's east-central part at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, about 470 km (292 mi) south from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) north from Marseille and 56 km (35 mi) northeast from Saint-Étienne. Inhabitants of the city are called Lyonnais.

Marseille Second-largest city of France and prefecture of Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Marseille is the second-largest city of France. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it nowadays is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on France's south coast near the mouth of the Rhône river. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 852,516 in 2012. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.


In contrast to the practice in most other education systems, the school years in France are numbered on a decreasing scale. Thus, pupils begin their secondary education in the sixième (6th class), and transfer to a lycée in the seconde (2nd class), and the final year is the terminale.

In French, the word étudiant(e) is usually reserved for university-level students, and collège and lycée students are referred to as élèves (pupils or students in English).

University academic institution for further education

A university is an institution of higher education and research which awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines. Universities typically provide undergraduate education and postgraduate education.

The curriculum (le programme officiel) is standardized for all French public institutions. Changes to the programme are made every year by the French Ministry of Education and are published in the Ministry's Bulletin Officiel de l'Éducation Nationale (BO), the official reference bulletin for educators.



The collège is the first level of secondary education in the French educational system. A pupil attending collège is called collégien (boy) or collégienne (girl). Men and women teachers at the collège- and lycée-level are called professeur (no official feminine professional form exists in France although the feminine form "professeure" has appeared and seems to be gaining some ground in usage). The City of Paris refers to a collège in English as a "high school." [1]

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Entry in sixième occurs directly after the last year of primary school, called cours moyen deuxième année (CM2). There is no entrance examination into collège, but administrators have established a comprehensive academic examination of students starting in sixième. The purpose of the examination is evaluating pupils' level on being graduated from primary school.

Education in France

The French educational system is highly centralized and organized, with many subdivisions. It is divided into the three stages of enseignement primaire, enseignement secondaire, and enseignement supérieur. In French higher education, the following degrees are recognized by the Bologna Process : Licence and Licence Professionnelle, and the comparably named Master and Doctorat degrees. In the program of education of France it doesn't include online school.

Test (assessment) Procedure for measuring a subjects knowledge, skill, aptitude, physical fitness, or other characteristics

A test or examination is an assessment intended to measure a test-taker's knowledge, skill, aptitude, physical fitness, or classification in many other topics. A test may be administered verbally, on paper, on a computer, or in a predetermined area that requires a test taker to demonstrate or perform a set of skills. Tests vary in style, rigor and requirements. For example, in a closed book test, a test taker is usually required to rely upon memory to respond to specific items whereas in an open book test, a test taker may use one or more supplementary tools such as a reference book or calculator when responding. A test may be administered formally or informally. An example of an informal test would be a reading test administered by a parent to a child. A formal test might be a final examination administered by a teacher in a classroom or an I.Q. test administered by a psychologist in a clinic. Formal testing often results in a grade or a test score. A test score may be interpreted with regards to a norm or criterion, or occasionally both. The norm may be established independently, or by statistical analysis of a large number of participants. An exam is meant to test a persons knowledge or willingness to give time to manipulate that subject.


SubjectRemarksStarting in
Humanities and Languages
French Language and Literature Features French and translated foreign works; concentrates on grammar and spelling6e
History and Geography French-based, but includes foreign history and geography6e
A first foreign language1Known as Première langue vivante (LV1)6e
A second foreign language1 or a French regional language Deuxième langue vivante (LV2)6e or 5e
Arts and Crafts 6e
Musical Education 6e
Civics Éducation civique 6e
1Available foreign languages include: English, German, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian; other languages available per locale. Most pupils study English as first foreign language, and Spanish, Italian or German as second foreign language.
Natural and Applied Sciences
Mathematics 6e
Biology and Geology Sciences de la vie et de la Terre (SVT)6e
Technology 6e
Physics and Chemistry 6e
Compulsory Courses
Physical Education 6 e
Optional Courses
Latin 5e
Ancient Greek 5e

The table at the right details the French curriculum. Along with three-to-four weekly hours of physical education, a typical school week consists of some twenty-six (26) hours of schooling. French language and literature occupy the most time, 4–5 hours per week, followed by mathematics, 4 hours per week; other subjects occupy some 1.0–3.5 hours per week.

Physical education educational course related to the physique of the human body

Physical education, also known as Phys Ed., PE, gym, or gym class, and known in many Commonwealth countries as physical training or PT, is an educational course related of maintaining the human body through physical exercises. It is taken during primary and secondary education and encourages psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting to promote health.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Mathematics field of study

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure, space, and change.

The curriculum is devised by the French Ministry of National Education and applies to all collèges in France and also for AEFE-dependent institutions. Académies and individual schools have little margin for curriculum customisation. Teachers compose syllabi per precise government educational regulations, and choose textbooks accordingly; every major French publishing house has a textbook branch.

Process and purpose

Each subject is usually taught by a different "professeur" or teacher; most teachers teach several different age groups. Collège pupils stay in the same class throughout the school year, and in every subject (except for optional courses such as foreign languages, where students from several classes mix), so each year group is divided into as many classes as necessary. The strong belief in teaching in mixed-ability classes means that streaming[ clarification needed ] is rare.

Class size varies from school to school, but usually ranges from 20 to 35 pupils. Each class has a professeur principal (main teacher or class tutor) who is the link between the teaching staff, administration, and pupils. [2]

Ultimately, the role of the collège is to prepare students for the advanced subjects of the lycée. At the end of the troisième class, students sit for le diplôme national du Brevet, an end-of-collège examination; The brevet is not required for entrance to the lycée, nor does passing it guarantee that a pupil will progress to the higher-level school.

During the last conseil de classe of the year, held in June, teachers and administrators decide whether or not a pupil can progress to the next grade. In deciding, they evaluate the student's skills, participation, and behaviour. Three outcomes are possible:

  1. the student progresses to the next grade;
  2. his or her redoublement (repeating the year) can be required;
  3. he or she can, in specific cases, be offered to skip a grade and be promoted two grades.

A student asked to repeat a grade can appeal said decision. The decision of the appeals council is final.

Carte scolaire

A lycee in Rennes, from the 19th century. Lycee Rennes DSC08932.JPG
A lycée in Rennes, from the 19th century.

French parents are not free to choose the state school that their children will attend; unless the children have special learning needs, they will attend the school allocated to them by the carte scolaire (school map). Reasons for attending a state school which is not their nearest include studying an option unavailable in the school to which they were originally assigned (e.g. a rare foreign language).

For many reasons, many parents consider the allocated school inadequate, particularly if they do not like the idea of their children mixing with some of the other pupils at the school. This is especially the case in poor neighbourhoods with large foreign immigrant populations. In any city, there are "better" lycées and collèges, which parents would prefer their children attend (usually dating from the 19th century, in the city centre). The two main methods used in such circumstances to get children into a school other than their assigned school are:

A similar trick is used in cases where some classes in a school are seen as "better" than others. For organisational reasons, students taking certain options are grouped into special classes, which may be academically attractive. These typically include classes taking German as a first foreign language, or Latin or Ancient Greek as options.


The lycée is the second, and last, stage of secondary education in the French educational system. The City of Paris refers to a lycée in English as a "sixth form college". [1] A pupil attending a lycée is a lycéen (boy) or a lycéenne (girl).

Until 1959, the term lycée designated a secondary school with a full curriculum (7 years, the present college + lycée) directly under the supervision of the State, then from 1959 to 1963 any secondary school with a full curriculum. [3] Older lycées still include a collège section, [4] so a pupil attending a lycée may actually be a collégien.

At the end of the final year of schooling, most students take the baccalauréat diploma.


Lycées are divided into (i) the lycée général, leading to two or more years of post–baccalauréat studies, (ii) the lycée technologique, leading to short-term studies, and (iii) the lycée professionnel, a vocational qualification leading directly to a particular career. General and technological education courses are provided in "standard" lycées, while vocational courses are provided in separate professional lycées.

In practice, competent pupils at a vocational lycée professionnel can also apply to take short-term, post–baccalauréat studies leading to the Brevet de technicien supérieur (BTS), a vocational qualification. This option is also available to pupils at a lycée général.

Lycée général and lycée technologique

In France, the lycée général is the usual stepping stone to university degrees. During their year in Seconde students make their final choice of série (course) for the final two years. During the seconde, students mostly take the same courses, despite having different academic skills and interests, so it is usually thought to be an easier year than either the première or the terminale.

General streams

After the seconde, most French students choose a general course. In all courses, some subjects occupy more hours in the student's timetable. The baccalauréat examination is different for all three séries, and subjects are weighted according to the course taken.

(various hard sciences)
économique et social
(economics and social sciences)
DescriptionThe sciences course heavily weights high-level mathematics, physics-chemistry and biology-geology.The série ES is balanced between literary and economics courses; students must take economics and social sciences exams.The série L heavily weighs French language, French literature, Foreign literature in foreign language and Philosophy, and to a lesser extent, history, geography and foreign languages. Students must take examinations in one to three modern languages. They also have the option of taking examinations in Latin, ancient Greek, or both. Students in première littéraire (1èreL or 1L) don't have maths and only a small amount of sciences, unless they choose the 'maths' option. Students in Terminale Littéraire (TleL or TL) have neither maths nor physics&chemistry nor biology, unless they had chosen the 'maths' option in 1L.

According to the official statistics, for the 2003–2004 school year, 33 per cent of all students chose série S; 19 per cent chose série ES; and 11 per cent chose série L. [5]

All students take philosophy courses in terminale, while French language classes end in the première, excepting the série L, where they become French literature classes, where pupils are to study two books during the year, from French writers, or foreign books translated into French (e.g. Romeo and Juliet during the school year 2007–2008, or The Leopard from Italian author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa).

There also is a required option for further specialisation in all séries, although it is restricted to the chosen course. For example, a student in série S can choose to specialise in mathematics, physics, "SVT " (biology and geology) or "engineering sciences", but not in philosophy.

A student in série L can choose to specialise in one of his or her foreign languages (English being the most popular), a third foreign language or a dead language such as Latin, one of these arts music, theatre, circus, "plastiques" Specialisation adds a separate, weekly two-hour class in the chosen discipline; also, it increases the weight of the chosen subject at the baccalauréat. The syllabus in the specialisation class is unrelated to the material learned in the common class. Specialisation plays no role in the choice of a post–secondary career or subject at university, except for a few courses aimed for students from a given série that can also accept students from other séries if they have taken a given specialisation.

Technical streams

The lycée includes eight other streams, called séries technologiques:

  • sciences et technologies de la gestion (Management Sciences and Technologies, STG) (replaced sciences et technologies tertiaires (Service Sciences and Technologies, STT) for the June 2007 Bac Exam)
  • sciences et technologies de l'industrie et du développement durable (Industrial Science and Technologies and sustainable development, STI2D)
  • sciences et technologies de laboratoire (Laboratory Science and Technologies, STL)
  • sciences médico-sociales (Health and Social Sciences, SMS): The name was changed in 2007 and became: Sciences et technologies de la santé et du social (Sciences and Technologies in Health and Social, ST2S)
  • sciences et technologies du produit agroalimentaire (Food Science and Technologies, STPA)
  • sciences et technologies de l'agronomie et de l'environnement (Agronomy and Environment Science and Technologies, STAE)
  • techniques de la musique et de la danse (Music and Dance Techniques, TMD)
  • hôtellerie (Hotel and restaurants management)

The STPA and STAE stream are only available in lycées agricoles, speciality schools for agricultural sciences.

Lycée professionnel

The lycée professionnel leads to several different vocational diplomas. The courses are designed for students who do not plan to continue into higher education. The vocational training is for craftspeople and involves internships in commercial enterprises. The courses are suitable for students who are more interested in a hands-on educational approach than in academic schooling.

Outside France

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Children & families." (Archive) City of Paris. Retrieved on 20 July 2010.
  2. H. D. Lewis (1985). The French Education System. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN   0-7099-1683-3.
  3. Jean-Michel Chapoulie. Les professeurs de l'enseignement secondaire : Un métier de classe moyenne. 01/01/87. Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. p3. ISBN   2-7351-0203-3.
  4. ex : Lycée Henri IV
  5. official statistics [ permanent dead link ]