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Education in France

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The education system in France:

(source: European Union)

I. Information on Community Law

II. Information concerning the national education system

III. Useful addresses

I. Information on Community Law

The fundamental principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality between students studying in a foreign country and national students applies as regards admission to an educational or training establishment. This includes enrolment fee requirements and the conditions governing the award of a grant to cover such fees. In this respect, any Community citizen must be treated in the same way as national citizens. One example of the kind of problem which young people studying another country may encounter would be special requirements on admission, the need to pass tests or supply documentary evidence, or other such conditions which are not required of nationals, and which have no objective justification.

Each Member State's law provides for financial assistance for students in higher education. Some countries' laws may make it possible for a grant to be transferred where a student decides to study in another country. In other words, the student may continue to receive financial aid from his/her country of origin while studying in another Member State.

Students covered by the Erasmus chapter of the Socrates programme are treated more favourably than students who have changed countries outside the Community scheme or under an inter-university agreement. It goes without saying that such students are still covered by the principle of equal treatment in terms of admission conditions, with exemption from the requirement to pay any enrolment fee. In addition, though, they continue to receive grants or other forms of financial assistance from their country of origin, regardless of the general rules or any obstacles in the country in question concerning the transferability of grants. As regards recognition of periods of training completed in an establishment in another country, the Community legislation governing the programme requires that this be provided for in the form of agreements between the university of origin and the host university. Such recognition is not necessarily guaranteed where study periods or training periods are not within the scope of the Socrates/Erasmus programme.

The conditions set out in a. above constitute a minimum set of rights which apply to all students who do not enjoy a broader status under Community law. For instance, where a student is classified as a worker or as a child of a Community worker, the principle of equal treatment applies to other aspects of academic life as well, i.e. enrolment and maintenance grants, general academic benefits, and any other measure designed to facilitate the student's education.

II. Information concerning the national education system

Compulsory education: primary and lower secondary education

Structure and duration

School attendance is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, and the requirement covers both primary school (Ð"©cole Ð"©lÐ"©mentaire) and lower secondary school (collÐ"Ёge). Generally, pupils leaving the collÐ"Ёge (4 years) are 15 years of age; therefore they must still attend school full-time for at least one more year to satisfy the compulsory schooling requirement. Normally, they do so in a general and technological lycÐ"©e or a vocational lycÐ"©e. Primary education lasts five years from the age of 6 to the age of 11. It includes five classes divided into two cycles: the basic learning cycle which begins already in the upper section of nursery school (Ð"©cole maternelle) and continues in the first two years of primary school; and the consolidation cycle which covers the final three years before admission to the collÐ"Ёge. Lower secondary education lasts four years - 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd classes - for pupils from the age of 11 to 15. It is divided into three cycles: the 6th class is the cycle of adaptation; the 5th and the 4th classes are the central cycle; and the 3rd is the specialisation cycle.

School Year

The school year normally starts at the beginning of September and lasts for 36 weeks.


Entry requirements

Attendance at primary school is compulsory for all children from the age of 6. As a rule, parents are required to enrol their children in the school area in which they live, but exceptions are possible. All pupils who have completed the consolidation cycle of primary school are admitted to collÐ"Ёge at the latest when they are 12 years old.

Tuition fees

All compulsory schooling is provided free of charge. The cost of books and other teaching materials is often borne by the municipality in the case of primary schools and by the county councils (Conseils gÐ"©nÐ"©raux) in the case of collÐ"Ёges.


The teaching of a foreign language in the last two years of the consolidation cycle of primary school has been introduced in certain schools on an experimental basis since 1989. Since 1995, teachers may, on a voluntary basis, give short, daily introductory classes in a foreign language to primary pupils (last year of basic learning cycle and first year of consolidation cycle).

At collÐ"Ёge, the study of a first foreign language is compulsory from the 6th class, and the study of a second foreign or regional language is possible (compulsory as from September 1998) from the 4th class.


1. Primary education:

Each child has a report book (livret scolaire) which informs parents of the proposal of the Teachers' Council of the cycle attended concerning the child's promotion to a higher class or cycle and the final decision taken. According to the pupil's performance promotion can be delayed or advanced.

2. CollÐ"Ёge:

Marks are noted in a report which is sent to parents. Only in the 4th and 3rd classes are pupils' results noted in a school report book and are taken into account for the award of the national certificate.



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