Are you thinking of moving to France with your family? If so schooling will be a major pre-occupation for you and your family.

As in any other country the French schooling system has its own particularities that will differ from your home country. In this blog we look at some of the main characteristics of French Schools.

Practical aspects

French public schools are free or require small payment for the year. Parents with French nationality or relevant residency permits are entitled to an allowance to cover school expenses. This is called the Allocation de rentrée scolaire (ARS) and it is allocated according to the earnings of the family. Generally, parents are expected to pay for stationary and school materials. Both Private International and Private French schools charge an annual school fee.

One of the most interesting characteristics of French Schools is that it is very common for French children to start school at 3 years of age even though schooling is not mandated till 6 years old. In the public system, a school day starts at about 09:00 and ends at 15:30 when children take part in sports and activities offered by the school. This differs from private schools that have their own hours and after school programmes. Most schools will have a hot lunch service at mid- day.

Insurance, called “assurance scolaire” is mandatory. This is a third-party insurance in case of damages caused by your child. Normally, schools are non- secular and all signs of religious icons are prohibited. Furthermore, religious holidays are not celebrated at school.

The school year runs from September to Early July. School holidays include an almost 2 month break in July and August, 2 weeks at Christmas and Easter and half term breaks in October and February. The timing of the school holiday varies according to the regional zone that the school is in.

The French school structure

The French schooling system is divided into 4 sections:

  • Preschool (maternelle): 3-5 years
  • Primary school (primaire): 6- 10 years
  • Middle school (collège): 11- 14 years
  • High school (lycée): 15- 18 years

Most schools in France are state run and entirely funded by the government. Certain schools are semi-private (sous contrat) meaning that their teachers are paid by the state. Other private schools are fully private and independent (hors contrat); International Schools would generally fall into this category maintaining their independence in their choice of teachers and curricula.

The Curriculum

French public schools and semi- private schools follow the national curriculum (Education Nationale). International schools may follow a variety of curriculums including the International Baccalaureate or the British A-levels.

The French curriculum places a high importance on Math and French and creative subjects (art, music etc.) are less of a focus.

Rote learning is still alive and well under the French National Curriculum and children are expected to learn poems and texts by heart. International schools tend to focus on skills development and the application of knowledge gained.

Teaching and learning

The teaching style and learning approaches can vary widely from school to school and teacher to teacher within the public-school system. In general, the teaching approach is thought to be 20th century as opposed to 21st century teaching and learning. Teachers are answerable to the education authority and not to the management of the school unless it is high school who has a non-teaching director in place. Class sizes in the state system can be rather large and teachers may find themselves with up to 30 students in the class. International and private schools will include frequent group work whereas the most French schools will be focused on individual work.


As in any country the French schooling system has it’s own particularities. Be sure to research the schools thoroughly before making any choices.

Visit the EBICA website, one of the leading international schools in France



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