France is one of the most populated countries in Europe, with more than 66 million people, out of which around 90% lives in the metropolitan area of this European country. Of all the 66 million people that inhabit France, around a quarter of them (16 million people) are pupils and students fully integrated into the French education system, while only around two million are undertaking higher education.
Here is a brief outline regarding education in France:
- Unified education: The French educational system offers a three-level educational system, where students first go through primary school, then to secondary school, and then undertake any form of higher education, which can be at a particular University, or by attending a one or two year course or an Institute. This compartmentalized system makes instruction procedures far more streamlined, which in turn achieves a very even level of education across all of France.
- Compulsory primary education: More than 40 years ago, France made primary education for all children between six and 16 years compulsory, implementing more than 60,000 schools around the country specially targeted at providing primary school education to children up to five years old. These schools have special teaching systems in place that makes the transition from primary to secondary school a very smooth process for students.
- Secondary school transition: Different from primary school, secondary education in France is not mandatory, but it is given the exact same importance as primary education. Once in secondary school, children from 11 to 15 years all attend regular lessons regardless of their skill level or different achievements. However, after 15 years of age, children are required to attend either a general, technical or a vocational “lycee,” which are institutions that help children determine their careers by focusing in their areas of interest, while at the same time preparing them for the higher education entrance examinations that they will undertake at the age of 18.
- Mandatory (and progressive) transition policies: Once students in France reach the last year of secondary school, they can start choosing some specific subjects that interest them and that they would like to pursue in their search for their career. On top of that, one of the most beneficial measures that the French Government has implemented is the compulsory study of not one, but at least two foreign languages, each to be started before finishing secondary education.
- Special cases: While the great majority of students attend traditional schools under the administration of the Ministry of National Education, there are more than 600,000 students who go to other types of schools, which have different sets of regulations.
There are more than 100,000 pupils who suffer from various disabilities and attend special schools under the regulation of the Ministry of Health.
There are 200,000+ students who choose instead to go to vocational and technical courses, which provide them with a technical degree in just 2 or three years at most. And lastly, there are around 300,000 pupils who start going into apprenticeships that prepare them for “real life,” work scenarios and teach specialized skills. Although underage; they are not treated under the same regulations and conditions as adult workers.
Of special note is the introduction on the part of the French Government, of “specialist” classes implemented at most schools, but more prominently at special schools attended by pupils who suffer from either behavioral or emotional problems or who are simply slow learners. These classes’ help children adapt and find their vocation in order to be brought back to the main French educational system.