Trying to make sense of the options available
Around 15% of children in France attend a private school of one kind or another. These schools come in many forms: catholic or ecular, bilingual or trilingual, day and boarding international or linked to curriculum of another country.
Not surprisingly therefore, the syllabus and exams set correspond with the type of school. It is possible for your child to follow the British or American educational framework but this is limited to areas of France with heavy concentrations of non-French e.g. Paris or the Cote d’Azur.
“Sous-contrat” and “hors-contrat”
Private schools are either “sous contrat” (where the government pays the teachers’ salaries and the school follows the national curriculum and schedule) or “hors contrat” (not funded by the government and free to set its own curriculum). However, it is good to note that, excepting those schools following the national curriculum of another country, most “hors contrat” schools are French system schools that follow the national curriculum, particularly for children from 6 years and up.
Schools which are “sous contrat” ask parents to pay an annual fee which ranges from around €400 per year for some of the less expensive private catholic schools to € 4500 per year for state-funded bilingual and international schools. Bear in mind that these fees don’t include lunches, registration fees, transport, materials etc.
“Hors contrat” schools have annual fees that are more in common with private schools anywhere in the world and can average between about €8,000 to €20,000 per year.
Funding and educational direction
“Hors contrat” schools are free of the obligations imposed on “sous contrat” school which have several alternatives concerning governance and funding: (1) to continue completely independent of government intervention, subject to employing qualified teachers; (2) to be absorbed into the national public education system; (3) to accept government requirements as to curriculum and testing in exchange for staff salaries (contrat simple); and (4) to accept, in addition, some government control over pedagogy and the selection of teachers, in exchange for operating expenses as well as salaries (contrat d’association). Most Catholic elementary schools, with their limited funding needs, choose the “contrat simple”, while many secondary schools, having higher operating costs, choose the “contrat d’association”. Schools receiving funds through this second type of contract must demonstrate that they have a distinctive character or philosophy not catered to in the public system. Private schools without a religious orientation tend to remain independent of government intervention, though they can receive a certain amount of public funding under a different law.
If the fees of “hors contrat” schools are off limits for your budget, a popular alternative is to consider the “Ecoles Confessionelles” or private religious schools, most often Catholic. These provide very similar standards of education to those of state schools and use the same curriculum. For many they provide a useful and affordable alternative to the state school. Fees are often very modest and in general religious instruction is offered but not imposed.
Database of schools
A vast, searchable database of different kinds of private schools can be found at www.fabert.com. Here you can specify your departement and the type of school you are interested in.
If it is within your budgets and you live the right area (or your child can board), there are a number on international schools to evaluate. See International Schools for a list of schools with contact details.
ELSA, the English Language Schools Association is a non-profit association composed of schools in France which offer advanced programmes of study in English. Its mission is to provide up-to-date information to those seeking schooling in English, and to facilitate communication, cooperation, and professional growth among member schools. It’s web site lists a number of international, bi-lingual and French schools with international sections
ELSA, the English Language Schools Association is a non-profit association composed of schools in France which offer advanced programmes of study in English. Its mission is to provide up-to-date information to those seeking schooling in English, and to facilitate communication, cooperation, and professional growth among member schools. Its web site lists a number of international, bi-lingual and French schools with international sections. See International Schools for a list of schools with contact details.
Further listings of international schools can be found a these sites:
If you are thinking of sending your child to a private school that does not strictly conform to the curriculum and timetables of the French state system, some aspects to consider are:
• Curriculum and syllabus – will they be acceptable at the next place of education
• Exam results and performance at entry point for next-level education
• Reporting and parent involvement/communication
• Class sizes and student/teacher ratios
• Qualification requirements for teachers
• Teacher turnover
• Student turnover
• Cost of extras
• Nationality of students
• Languages spoken and languages taught
• Religious instruction
• Options for boarding
• Excursions and school trips
• Terms, hours and holidays
• Disciplinary policies
• Facilities; technology, drama, arts etc
• Fees and withdrawal terms