Education System in France



France is on the fifth place in the latest Best Countries for Education ranking conducted by University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and brand strategy firm BAV Consulting.

The results were based on a survey of more than 16,000 participants from for regions. The European country scored 8.5 out of 10 on the well-developed public education system attribute. No wonder France remains as one of the top destinations for international students and expat families.

An overview of the French education system

Education is mandatory for children from age 6 to 16. The compulsory levels cover elementary and the first four years of secondary education (collège). Many parents send their children as young as three to the lycée, which offers nursery and kindergarten education. All residents are entitled to a free public education.

Enrolment in France takes place in the first six months of the year at local town halls. Foreigners entering French elementary schools may enrol in their chosen school or at the town hall near their residence.

Before choosing a lycée for your toddler, you should be aware only children who reach the age of three between September and December 31 may enrol for that school year. If your child turns three between January 1 and March 1, they may attend classes starting January 1 until the end of February. Children who turn three after March 1 may enrol may enter pre-school until the start of the next school year.

By the time a child reaches the age of six, he/she should be enrolled in an elementary school. At age 16, students attend three years of secondary education in lycées d’enseignement général et technologique (secondary schools) or in lycées professionnels (secondary schools for vocational training) before taking qualifying exams for the Baccalauréat général and Baccalauréat technologique programs.

All foreign students, aged six and over, in Parisian schools are required to take French-language courses. Schools require foreigners to pass a French-language test during admissions.

If you’re an international school aiming for a university degree in France, you should be aware of the three stages of higher education. These include the two-year Premier cycle leading to the DEUG (Diplôme universitaire d’enseignement général) level; the three-year Deuxième cycle followed by the one-year maîtrise; and the Troisième cycle or higher postgraduate program. The Troisième cycle start with the Diplôme d’études approfondies (DEA) or with the Diplôme d’études supérieures spécialisées (DESS).

Foreign students should either hold a French baccalaureate or a foreign equivalent. They should also pass a written and oral French-language exam as pre-requisite for admissions.

For more information on education in France, visit the official website of the Ministry of Education.