The french education system
The education system in France, like much of the economy in France, is highly centralized. All schools follow broadly the same curriculum which is set by the government, and teachers are considered civil servants.
Private Education in France
Approximately 20% of schools in France are private schools. All private schools in France are established on some religious basis. The majority of private schools in France are Catholic. Despite their private status, these schools are still subsidized with government funding and in return the private schools ensure that their curriculums are in accordance with government set guidelines (école privée sous contrat)
International Education in France
There are three types of school that offer international education:
- International Private Schools:
The curriculum is 50% in English and 50% in French. Most of the schools follow the home country syllabus.
- Public/Private French Schools with an International section:
A percentage of classes are given in English by a native English-language teacher, within the French Curriculum. The student is qualified to take the OIB exam, the English equivalent of the French Bac.
- Public/Private French Schools with a Bilingual or an European Section
Students are allowed to choose 2 foreign languages (English/German/Spanish), classes aren’t always given by a native-English-language teacher and a maximum of 3 hours foreign languages per week.
The school sytem
- Primary Education in France (Maternelle & Élementaire)|
Children enter the education system in France at the age of three when they begin crèche or nursery school. The primary education system is fairly standard across the entire country up until the age of 10 or 11 when children move on to secondary school.
- Secondary Education in France (Collège & Lycée)
French secondary education is divided into two schools:
- the collège for the first four years (6e, 5e, 4e & 3e) directly following primary school;
- the lycée for the next three years (Seconde, Première & Terminale).
The Brevet des collèges (or brevet) is the first official diploma a pupil has to sit. It is not required in order to enter lycée. The completion of secondary studies leads to the Baccalauréat (BAC).
- University Education in France
Students who pass the Baccalauréat exam are entitled to a free place at university in France. France has 77 universities al of which are funded by the government. Only 30% of secondary students ever enter into this level of education in France. Universities in France are free for students. However, all students are obliged to sit an exam at the end of their first year and only those who pass are entitled to continue with their university education.
- Elite Education in France
France has a system of elite tertiary education for the top 5% of its students known as Grand Ecoles. These institutions, of which there are 140 in France, train students in disciplines such as engineering, applied sciences and business management. Students are educated for free and are even given a support grant while studying; however, once they graduate students are obliged to work in the civil service for a number of years.
The primary education consists of the following cycles:
- Cycle 1 (Maternelle)
- Petite Section
- Moyenne Section
- Grande Section
- Cycle 2 (Primaire)
- Cours Préparatoire – CP
- Cours Élementaire niveau 1 – CE1
- Cours Élementaire niveau 2 – CE2
- Cycle 3 (Elementaire)
- Cours Moyen niveau 1 – CM1
- Cours Moyen niveau 2 – CM2
- Sixième – 6ème
How to enroll your child into a French primary school?
To enroll your child in a public school for the first time, you need to contact the service des écoles at your local city council (mairie). Children are generally expected to attend the school near their place of residence. You will need to get a certificate d’inscription from the city council (local mairie). To obtain this, you will have to show:
- a birth certificate.
- an official booklet with health records or other official health certificate to show that the child is immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio (DTP).
- a copy of a utility bill (EDF) or rental agreement showing your home address.
Foreign documents may need to be translated by an official translator, traducteur assermenté. Parents may also be asked to show proof of identity, copies of passports and proof of insurance (assurance scolaire).
For more information about the primary schools & enrollment in Montpellier & the surrounding areas, please check the website of the Académie Montpellier.
The secondary education in France consists of two sections:
- Cycle 4 (Collège)
- Cinquième – 5ème
- Quatrième – 4ème
- Troisième – 3ème
- Cycle 5 (Lycée)
How to enroll your child into a French school?
To enroll in a public/private collège sous contrat, you can contact the school of your choice directly. If your child is arriving from outside France and is entering the public collège or lycée for the first time, you will need to contact the Académie Montpellier (click on the link “de l’école au supérieure”). Your child may have to take a French-language test.
To enroll in a public/private lycée sous contrat, you can visit the website AFFELNET to subscribe your child to the nearest lycée in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is not applicable to the international section. You can contact the school directly as a different settlement is applied to enter this section.
When applying to a secondary school, you may need
- an application form
- end of term reports from the previous year
- exit certificate from the primary school
- certificate of admission to 6eme
- passport photos
- proof of insurance (assurance scolaire)
The following links will provide a list of all the private and public collèges and lycées in the Montpellier and the surrounding areas:
List of international private schools in Montpellier and public/private schools with an international/bilingual section:
International Private Schools (English Language – hors contrat)
- École Bilingue Internationale (nursery, primary, collège, Lycée & IB Lycée) in BAILLARGUES (34670)
- École Eridan (nursery, primary, collège) in Montpellier (34000)
- École Internationale Antonia (Nursery & Primary) in Montpellier (34000)
- IS Montpellier – Ninos’cool (Nursery & Primary) in Saint-Clément de Rivière (34980)
- La Maison des enfants – Montessori teaching method (Nursery & Primary) in Castelnau le Lez (34170)
French Public Schools (sous contrat) with an International Section
- École Sibelius Pottier in Montpellier (Primary) – enrollment through Académie Montpellier
- Collège Camille Claudel in Montpellier (Collège)
- Collège Las Cazes in Montpellier (Collège)
- Lycée Jules Guesde in Montpellier (Lycée)
- Lycée Jean Monnet in Montpellier (Lycée)
No international section but extra English Classes (Anglais Renforcé) which lead to 8 hours English per week. The specialization of this school is the subject Audio & Cinéma.
French Private Catholic Schools (sous contrat) with a Bilingual section (English/Spanish or English/German)
- La providence in Montpellier – (Nursery, Primary, Collège)
- Saint-Francois Régis in Montpellier (Nursery, Primary, Collège)
5 to 6 hours English per week. Not necessarily a native English-language teacher.
How to enroll your child into a French international private school hors and sous contrat?
To enroll in a private school hors and sous contrat, you can contact the school of your choice directly.
What’s the difference between ‘sous contrat’ and ‘hors contrat’?
Sous contrat: these state-contracted private schools are controlled and funded by the Government. They follow the French national curriculum and relate to the same rules and regulations as public schools. The lessons, tests and exams are in French and students work towards the French qualification, the baccalauréat. The school fee is between 800 to 900 euros a year, the canteen fee is approx. 700 euros a year and the enrollment fee is approx. 190 euros.
Hors contrat: these private schools are fully independently funded and are not under government control, although they do have to be registered with the Ministry of Education. These private schools are free to set their own curriculum. The school fee is from 5000 euros per child/a year, the canteen fee is approx. 900-1000 euros per child/a year and the enrollment fee is between 400 to 750 euros per child/a year.