You are relocating to France with your teenagers? Then, finding a lycee, a French school, will be one of your first worries. Whether you are registering your child in a public or private French school, the curricular is national as well as the baccalaureate exam.
If you have children between 15 and 18 years old, you will be interested in reading this article until the end as I will explain in detail the secondary school system; how it is organised and the enrolment process.
Once pupils reach lycee, they have three years before they take the famous Baccalaureate (or “Bac”) exam. It is the cornerstone of the French school system.
- First-year of secondary school: Seconde
- Second-year of secondary school: Première
- Last and third year of secondary school: Terminale
A the end of the first year of secondary school, teenagers should decide whether they go to the general section (choice between 3 options) or a more technological section (choice between 8 sections).
Secondary school sections
The general route
The general option is a more academic choice, focusing on general knowledge and less on applied one. This section is perfect for scholastic students that don’t know what they want to study later on. Being a very broad education, it keeps their options open to both technical studies and very selective universities or business schools.
Out of their generation, 79,7% of the teenagers graduated from the Bac in 2019. And from the ones that took the exam the overall rate is 88,1% in the first round (in June). There is a second round in September for some students that had an average between 8 and 10 over 20.
Out of the 79,7% of the teenagers, 42,5% of the secondary students chose the general section in 2018 according to INSEE, the French National statistics institute.
The technological route
The technological route is meant to lead to 2-3 years of technical college education and can also apply to engineering higher studies.
There are 8 technological options:
- STL : “sciences et technologies de laboratoire” (Laboratory Sciences and technologies)
- STI2D : “sciences et technologies de l’industrie et du développement durable” (Industrial sciences & technologies and Sustainable development)
- STD2A : “sciences et technologies du design et des arts appliqués” (Design and applied arts science and technologies)
- STMG : “sciences et technologies du management et de la gestion” (Management and administration sciences and technologies)
- ST2S : “sciences et technologies de la santé et du social” (Social & Health sciences and technologies)
- S2TMD : “techniques de la musique et de la danse” (Dance and music sciences and technologies)
- STHR : “sciences et technologies de l’hôtellerie et de la restauration” (Hospitality and restaurant industry sciences and technologies)
- STAV : “sciences et technologies de l’agronomie et du vivant” (Life and agronomics science and technologies)
Out of the 79,7% of the secondary school student who graduated with the Baccalaureate in 2019, 16,4% of the secondary school students chose one of the 8 technical sections.
Both general and technical routes are taught in the same secondary schools, the Lycées généraux.
The Vocational route
The vocational route should be chosen at the end of middle school (Troisième). Students are taught to integrate faster their working life; however, some students may choose to continue higher education studies afterwards.
The remaining 20,8% are lycee students who graduated from professional sections, that are taught in separate professional secondary schools.
We will detail the vocational lycees in the later post.
The lycee French school reform from September 2019
The 2019 secondary school reform highly impacted the general section. The 3 options L (for Literature), S (for Science) and ES (for Economics) were removed to be replaced by a core curriculum and ‘specialities’ from Première.
The core curriculum includes history, geography, 2 foreign languages (Langue Vivante A & B, often called LVA & LVB), science, French literature, Civics (EMC) for a total of 16h classes/week, and from Terminale (last year of lycee), Philosophy remains part of the core curriculum (total of 15h30/week).
With the reforms, pupils will be able to choose three subjects as specialities (totalling 12h/week) from a potential 17, ranging from literature and philosophy to physics and chemistry to literature, and with seven arts subjects.
In addition to the total of 28h in Première and 27h30 in Terminale, all students should take ‘orientation’ classes for 1h30/week to help students with their future education and career choices.
Students will drop one of these in Terminale to specialise in only two subjects (for a total of 12h/week). Students can add one option in première and another in Terminale for a total of 3h/week.
How to enrol to the French public lycee?
For secondary school enrolment, I advise you to contact the Rectorate of your Académie for information, they will confirm which lycee matches your new home address. All public school allocation depends on your catchment area.
If you have just arrived in France and are planning to rent temporary accommodation for a few weeks, I advise you to take into consideration the public school you want to enrol your children.
The enrolment process and required documents will vary from one lycee to another. Therefore, once you have been allocated your local school, you should contact the director directly to start the enrolment process.
A large number of schools offer French as a foreign language classes to allow a better induction for allophone children. The student can take 3, 6, 9 or 12 hours of French lessons per week depending on the needs (based on the initial assessment).
Contact the Rectorate of your Académie to have information about the school offering the French classes as a foreign language (called FLE-FLS). The CASNAV, the specialised department of the Rectorate to welcome allophone students in the French school system, will assist you in this process and liaise with your allocated school.
Your child will first be assessed by a team of professionals. The class assignment will be determined by the results of a French test and a learning assessment.
The following documents will be required to register your child:
- each child’s birth certificate (if needed, translated into French by a sworn translator certified by a French court of appeal);
- child’s vaccination record;
- proof of residence in France, less than three months old;
The French secondary school year starts at the beginning of September and goes until June. The Baccalaureate exam is taken from the end of June – beginning of July. Four school holidays of two weeks each are intercalated every 6 weeks during the 10-months school year.
France is divided into 3 zones to spread the winter and spring holidays over 4 weeks. This zoning system goes back to the ’60s for economic and touristic reasons.
- Zone A: Caen, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Lyon, Montpellier, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Rennes et Toulouse.
- Zone B: Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Besançon, Dijon, Lille, Limoges, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Poitiers, Reims, Rouen et Strasbourg.
- Zone C: Bordeaux, Créteil, Paris et Versailles.
The school week is from Monday to Friday at most schools. Classes usually begin between 8 am and 9 am and end between 4 pm and 6 pm.
I hope this information will help you to understand the French secondary school system. You can also find out information on pre-schools and elementary schools in this article. I will soon prepare another article about middle school in France. Stay tuned!
If you have any questions, let me know in the below comments.