International schools in France
When relocating to France with a family, the school research is often one of the priorities. Many options exist in France for your children, both in the public or private sector, in the French classic curricular or the French international options or in the full international curricular. Every option has its pros and cons. This article will help you understand better which are the international options for your child.
Follow your home country standards and accreditations
If you wish your children to carry on in a system that they know, then a private international school is a great option. It offers the possibility to follow your home curriculum such as the UK, USA or Russia, etc. and therefore taking the home accreditations.
Follow the international standards and accreditations
Some international schools teach towards the achievement of an international qualification, set by a Swiss institution since 1968, recognised in many countries, which may allow students to enter into higher education in those countries. This examination is called the ‘International Baccalaureate‘ (IB).
Follow the French standard in an International section
In public French schools
International sections in a French public school are a good compromise, while the French curriculum is state-funded, and some international sections are tuition-based.
The international sections are offered from elementary school up to general high schools, both in France and the international network of French high schools abroad. 17 languages and cultures are taught among the whole network, with sections in American, Arabic, Brazilian, British, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.
There are currently 90 elementary schools, 104 junior high schools and 82 high schools with international sections in France approved by the French Ministry of Education.
Most French high schools with international sections teach what is called the ‘International Baccalaureate’ or more specifically, the Option International Baccalaureate (OIB), not to confuse with the IB, explained above.
The international sections are not designed for students wanting a full education in their non-French mother tongue.
It is also good to know that both the French Baccalaureate and the Option International Baccalaureate are accepted in other EU universities when applying as EU student.
In private French schools
These international schools (also called bilingual schools, or section Bilingue, classes bilingues) follow the standard French curricula but with a heavy emphasis on foreign languages and cultures.
Option International Baccalaureate (OIB)
This is a standard French baccalaureate and part of the formal French public education system. It can be offered as an option by public or private high schools.
The OIB gives significant extra exams and hours of study on top of the common baccalaureate programme. The students study the culture, the history and languages of other countries in more detail than the standard French baccalaureate.
Students select options based around aspects of the language they have chosen. Tuition and testing will usually be in the appropriate language and the students will need to have it as their mother tongue or to an advanced level. However, remember that the principal teaching language will be French, even if initially another language is also heavily used.
Some high schools offering the OIB may have a language admission assessment. Therefore students with basic French level may struggle to be admitted.
The International Baccalaureate (IB)
There are currently 18 high schools in France offering the international baccalaureate.
However, holding an IB is not necessarily an automatic guarantee of entry into university as admission acceptance is often controlled by the universities themselves.
Same as for the International sections, the tuitions may be done in the foreign language but also in French. It is therefore recommended to contact the international school you are interested in to check the minimum level required in French.
IB is ideal for families who may be travelling around the globe. I call them the professional expat families! It is also popular with some French families who wish their children to have a more international education.
While common public French school give an automatic right of entry to children if they are within the catchment area and the qualifying age ranges. Language limitations do not impact enrolment.
Public high schools with International sections will have specific admission procedures and the catchment area will not apply.
Regarding private schools contracted with the state admissions may be selective. Fees will be at least several thousand euros a year or more depending on the schools plus additional fees if boarding facilities are required.
International schools are often private and have their own admissions procedures, and are often quite selective.
Genuine international schools as well as international lycées, probably would not reject a student based on their French language level, considering that enrolling such students is their raison d’être.
Whichever school you may consider, it is recommended to apply as soon as you can as there usually is a waiting list. It is therefore always a good thing to consider several options.
Whatever your choice, your child will thrive!
To conclude, the main criteria that will help you shortlist your school options will be first your budget. You don’t want to dream about private international schools if you cannot afford it. Then, of course, the location unless you are willing to consider boarding schools.
Your children French skills may also impact depending on the schools, and finally, you will also need to check the quality of the schools, especially the private ones that are not state-contracted as the evaluation following the state inspection may often be hard to get.
In any case, it is important to remember that whatever school you manage to enrol your child, your child will thrive and adapt, often much better than us as adults.