Secondary Education in France

The French education for children aged 11 to 18. Find out about secondary schooling at French collèges and lycées...

Secondary education is broken into two phases. It begins with the compulsory first cycle for ages 11 to 15 at collège. After four years of collège, the student passes an exam (brevet des collèges). It should be noted that it is not essential for the student to successfully pass the brevet in order to continue schooling. The collège is followed by the post compulsory second cycle for ages 15 to 18 at a lycée. This is completed with the Baccalauréat. As with the elementary schools, registration must be made at the local Mairie by June, or sooner if a child is to be schooled outside of the commune of residence. Enrolment at private and international schools takes place at the school itself. The Service Public website has detailed information on college and high school enrolment procedures, schedules, and every day school life.

What Subjects do Children study in French school?

At collège, children study maths, French, history, geography, one foreign language and second foreign language from age 13 at the latest, physics, chemistry, science (known as SVT which covers natural sciences and biology), technology, music and art. Sport is compulsory for two hours a week at least. Once they move onto Lycée, children can specialise in a chosen area (see below).

Collèges

Collège is the first cycle for kids aged 11-15 years. On completing the CM2 cycle the pupil is ready for admission into sixième (6ème).

Collège Age UK, US, other name
Sixième (6ème) 11-12 years 1st form/year 7/sixth grade
Cinquième (5ème) 12-13 years 2nd form/year 8/Junior High: seventh grade
Quatrième (4ème) 13-14 years 3rd form/year 9/eighth grade
Troisième (3ème) 14-15 years 4th form/year 10/High School: ninth grade

The child should be registered at the local college for the geographic area (exceptions do apply where the local facilities do not cater for specific studies) and applications should be made before the spring holiday. School directors are able to help with the completion of the applications. Enrolment requirements vary between schools although generally the following will be required:

  • Application form
  • End of term reports for the past year
  • Exit certificate from the school
  • Certificate of admission to 6eme
  • Proof of vaccination certificates for DT-Polio
  • Two passport photographs with name and class requested
Further information is available from the departmental school inspectorate and from colleges in the commune. The Service Public website also has information on college registration

Lycées

For ages 15 to 18. The final three years are the seconde, première and terminale. It is at this point that the student specialises in a chosen area. The final exams are the Baccalauréat (the "Bac"). The Baccalauréat and the "International Option" Baccalauréat (OIB) are globally recognised qualifications for university entrance. Certain Bac exams (for example French) are taken at the end of première, the rest of the bac is taken in June of the terminale year. The Service Public website has more on high school registration

Lycée Age UK, US, other name
Seconde (CAP, BEP) 15-16 years 5th form/tenth grade
Première (CAP, BEP) 16-17 years lower 6th form/eleventh grade
Terminale (BAC) 17-18 years upper 6th form/twelfth grade

The "bac" subjects are grouped by discipline:

  • General bac include: Arts & Literature (BAC L), Science (BAC S), Social & Economic (BAC ES)
  • Technological bac includes: Science & Industrial Technologies (STI2D), (Applied Arts & Design STD2A), Science & Laboratory Technologies (STL), Medical & Social Sciences (ST2S), and Science & Management Technologies (STMG)
  • Detailed information from the Ministry of Education

Lycée d'enseignement professionnel (LEP/LPA)

The LEP and LPA are technical or professional school alternatives to lycée which can be followed after receiving a brevet des collèges.

Repeating the Year (Redoubler)

From September 2015, children in primary and secondary schools will only repeat the same year (redoubler) under specific circumstances. Further information about redoublement is available on Service Public.

The New Baccalauréat in France

The French Bac is undergoing a major revamp, set to be in place by 2021. The changes are one of many of Macron’s planned reforms, as he claims that the actual system doesn’t allow teenagers to adequately prepare for universities and other higher education options. Students who will start their first year of high school (lycée) in September 2018 will be the first to sit the new version Bac.

So does that mean an end to the dreaded philosophy exam questions such as ‘Is it absurd to desire the impossible?’ and ‘Is respecting all living beings a moral duty?’ Yes and no. The philosophy exam will still exist, but may not have the same weight as before in the final grade.

The new Bac (short for Baccalauréat) will include continuous control - that is, 40% of the final grade will be based on work during the final two years at high school. The actual exam at the end of the two years will be made up of 4 written exams and an oral of about 30 minutes.

The traditional series of Literature (Bac L), Science (Bac S) and Economics & Social Studies (Bac ES) will be replaced as follows:

All students will continue to study French, philosophy, history-geography, and modern languages

In the second year of high school, students choose 3 specialist subjects such as mathematics, sciences, economics and social sciences, arts, and in the final year select 2 of these subjects as their ‘majors’ in addition to 2 ‘minor’ subjects

Optional subjects

New subjects will also be available such as geopolitics and political science, and computer and digital sciences.

The final exams will be spread throughout the final two years rather than in the same week in June at the end of the final year. The student will still need a minimum average of 10 out of 20 to succeed. If they fail by just a few points they will stay have the possibility to do an oral exam to try to catch up the missing points - the oral de rattrapage.