Secondary education in France

In France, secondary education is in two stages:

  • collèges (French pronunciation: ​[kɔlɛʒ]) cater for the first four years of secondary education from the ages of 11 to 15.
  • lycées ([lise]) provide a three-year course of further secondary education for children between the ages of 15 and 18. Pupils are prepared for the baccalauréat ([bakalorea]) (baccalaureate, colloquially known as le bac), which can lead to higher education studies or directly to professional life.
Vesoul Lycée des Haberges
Lycée in Vesoul

School year

The school year starts in early September and ends in early July. Metropolitan French school holidays are scheduled by the Ministry of Education by dividing the country into three zones (A, B, and C) to prevent overcrowding by family holidaymakers of tourist destinations, such as the Mediterranean coast and ski resorts. Lyon, for example, is in zone A, Marseille is in zone B and Paris and Bordeaux are in zone C.

In contrast to the practice in most other education systems, the school years in France are numbered on a decreasing scale. Thus, pupils begin their secondary education in the sixième (6th class), and transfer to a lycée in the seconde (2nd class), and the final year is the terminale.

In French, the word étudiant(e) is usually reserved for university-level students, and collège and lycée students are referred to as élèves (pupils or students in English).

The curriculum (le programme officiel) is standardized for all French public institutions. Changes to the programme are made every year by the French Ministry of Education and are published in the Ministry's Bulletin Officiel de l'Éducation Nationale (BO), the official reference bulletin for educators.


Age Name Abbreviation
11–12 Sixième 6e
12–13 Cinquième 5e
13–14 Quatrième 4e
14–15 Troisième 3e

The collège is the first level of secondary education in the French educational system. A pupil attending collège is called collégien (boy) or collégienne (girl). Men and women teachers at the collège- and lycée-level are called professeur (no official feminine professional form exists in France although the feminine form "professeure" has appeared and seems to be gaining some ground in usage). The City of Paris refers to a collège in English as a "high school."[1]

Entry in sixième occurs directly after the last year of primary school, called cours moyen deuxième année (CM2). There is no entrance examination into collège, but administrators have established a comprehensive academic examination of students starting in sixième. The purpose of the examination is evaluating pupils' level on being graduated from primary school.


Subject Remarks Starting in
Humanities and Languages
French Language and Literature Features French and translated foreign works; concentrates on grammar and spelling 6e
History and Geography French-based, but includes foreign history and geography 6e
A first foreign language1 Known as Première langue vivante (LV1) 6e
A second foreign language1 or a French regional language Deuxième langue vivante (LV2) 6e or 5e
Arts and Crafts 6e
Musical Education 6e
Civics Éducation civique 6e
1Available foreign languages include: English, German, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian; other languages available per locale. Most pupils study English as first foreign language, and Spanish, Italian or German as second foreign language.
Natural and Applied Sciences
Mathematics 6e
Biology and Geology Sciences de la vie et de la Terre (SVT) 6e
Technology 6e
Physics and Chemistry 6e
Compulsory Courses
Physical Education 6 e
Optional Courses
Latin 5e
Ancient Greek 5e

The table at the right details the French curriculum. Along with three-to-four weekly hours of physical education, a typical school week consists of some twenty-six (26) hours of schooling. French language and literature occupy the most time, 4–5 hours per week, followed by mathematics, 4 hours per week; other subjects occupy some 1.0–3.5 hours per week.

The curriculum is devised by the French Ministry of National Education and applies to all collèges in France and also for AEFE-dependent institutions. Académies and individual schools have little margin for curriculum customisation. Teachers compose syllabi per precise government educational regulations, and choose textbooks accordingly; every major French publishing house has a textbook branch.

Process and purpose

Each subject is usually taught by a different "professeur" or teacher; most teachers teach several different age groups. Collège pupils stay in the same class throughout the school year, and in every subject (except for optional courses such as foreign languages, where students from several classes mix), so each year group is divided into as many classes as necessary. The strong belief in teaching in mixed-ability classes means that streaming is rare.

Class size varies from school to school, but usually ranges from 20 to 35 pupils. Each class has a professeur principal (main teacher or class tutor) who is the link between the teaching staff, administration, and pupils.[2]

Ultimately, the role of the collège is to prepare students for the advanced subjects of the lycée. At the end of the troisième class, students sit for le diplôme national du Brevet, an end-of-collège examination; The brevet is not required for entrance to the lycée, nor does passing it guarantee that a pupil will progress to the higher-level school.

During the last conseil de classe of the year, held in June, teachers and administrators decide whether or not a pupil can progress to the next grade. In deciding, they evaluate the student's skills, participation, and behaviour. Three outcomes are possible:

  1. the student progresses to the next grade;
  2. his or her redoublement (repeating the year) can be required;
  3. he or she can, in specific cases, be offered to skip a grade and be promoted two grades.

A student asked to repeat a grade can appeal said decision. The decision of the appeals council is final.

Carte scolaire

Lycee Rennes DSC08932
A lycée in Rennes, from the 19th century.

French parents are not free to choose the state school that their children will attend; unless the children have special learning needs, they will attend the school allocated to them by the carte scolaire (school map). Reasons for attending a state school which is not their nearest include studying an option unavailable in the school to which they were originally assigned (e.g. a rare foreign language).

For many reasons, many parents consider the allocated school inadequate, particularly if they do not like the idea of their children mixing with some of the other pupils at the school. This is especially the case in poor neighbourhoods with large foreign immigrant populations. In any city, there are "better" lycées and collèges, which parents would prefer their children attend (usually dating from the 19th century, in the city centre). The two main methods used in such circumstances to get children into a school other than their assigned school are:

  • paying for partly subsidised private schooling;
  • having the child choose an unusual option (e.g. Ancient Greek) available only in the preferred school.

A similar trick is used in cases where some classes in a school are seen as "better" than others. For organisational reasons, students taking certain options are grouped into special classes, which may be academically attractive. These typically include classes taking German as a first foreign language, or Latin or Ancient Greek as options.


The lycée is the second, and last, stage of secondary education in the French educational system. The City of Paris refers to a lycée in English as a "sixth form college".[1] A pupil attending a lycée is a lycéen (boy) or a lycéenne (girl).

Until 1959, the term lycée designated a secondary school with a full curriculum (7 years, the present college + lycée) directly under the supervision of the State, then from 1959 to 1963 any secondary school with a full curriculum.[3] Older lycées still include a collège section,[4] so a pupil attending a lycée may actually be a collégien.

At the end of the final year of schooling, most students take the baccalauréat diploma.

Age Name Abbreviation
15–16 Seconde 2de
16–17 Première 1re
17–18 Terminale Tle

Lycées are divided into (i) the lycée général, leading to two or more years of post–baccalauréat studies, (ii) the lycée technologique, leading to short-term studies, and (iii) the lycée professionnel, a vocational qualification leading directly to a particular career. General and technological education courses are provided in "standard" lycées, while vocational courses are provided in separate professional lycées.

In practice, competent pupils at a vocational lycée professionnel can also apply to take short-term, post–baccalauréat studies leading to the Brevet de technicien supérieur (BTS), a vocational qualification. This option is also available to pupils at a lycée général.

Lycée général and lycée technologique

In France, the lycée général is the usual stepping stone to university degrees. During their year in Seconde students make their final choice of série (course) for the final two years. During the seconde, students mostly take the same courses, despite having different academic skills and interests, so it is usually thought to be an easier year than either the première or the terminale.

General streams

After the seconde, most French students choose a general course. In all courses, some subjects occupy more hours in the student's timetable. The baccalauréat examination is different for all three séries, and subjects are weighted according to the course taken.

Streams S
(various hard sciences)
économique et social
(economics and social sciences)
Description The sciences course heavily weights high-level mathematics, physics-chemistry and biology-geology. The série ES is balanced between literary and economics courses; students must take economics and social sciences exams. The série L heavily weighs French language, French literature, Foreign literature in foreign language and Philosophy, and to a lesser extent, history, geography and foreign languages. Students must take examinations in one to three modern languages. They also have the option of taking examinations in Latin, ancient Greek, or both. Students in première littéraire (1èreL or 1L) don't have maths and only a small amount of sciences, unless they choose the 'maths' option. Students in Terminale Littéraire (TleL or TL) have neither maths nor physics&chemistry nor biology, unless they had chosen the 'maths' option in 1L.

According to the official statistics, for the 2003–2004 school year, 33 per cent of all students chose série S; 19 per cent chose série ES; and 11 per cent chose série L.[5]

All students take philosophy courses in terminale, while French language classes end in the première, excepting the série L, where they become French literature classes, where pupils are to study two books during the year, from French writers, or foreign books translated into French (e.g. Romeo and Juliet during the school year 2007–2008, or The Leopard from Italian author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa).

There also is a required option for further specialisation in all séries, although it is restricted to the chosen course. For example, a student in série S can choose to specialise in mathematics, physics, "SVT" (biology and geology) or "engineering sciences", but not in philosophy.

A student in série L can choose to specialise in one of his or her foreign languages (English being the most popular), a third foreign language or a dead language such as Latin, one of these arts music, theatre, circus, "plastiques" Specialisation adds a separate, weekly two-hour class in the chosen discipline; also, it increases the weight of the chosen subject at the baccalauréat. The syllabus in the specialisation class is unrelated to the material learned in the common class. Specialisation plays no role in the choice of a post–secondary career or subject at university, except for a few courses aimed for students from a given série that can also accept students from other séries if they have taken a given specialisation.

Technical streams

The lycée includes eight other streams, called séries technologiques:

  • sciences et technologies de la gestion (Management Sciences and Technologies, STG) (replaced sciences et technologies tertiaires (Service Sciences and Technologies, STT) for the June 2007 Bac Exam)
  • sciences et technologies de l'industrie et du développement durable (Industrial Science and Technologies and sustainable development, STI2D)
  • sciences et technologies de laboratoire (Laboratory Science and Technologies, STL)
  • sciences médico-sociales (Health and Social Sciences, SMS): The name was changed in 2007 and became: Sciences et technologies de la santé et du social (Sciences and Technologies in Health and Social, ST2S)
  • sciences et technologies du produit agroalimentaire (Food Science and Technologies, STPA)
  • sciences et technologies de l'agronomie et de l'environnement (Agronomy and Environment Science and Technologies, STAE)
  • techniques de la musique et de la danse (Music and Dance Techniques, TMD)
  • hôtellerie (Hotel and restaurants management)

The STPA and STAE stream are only available in lycées agricoles, speciality schools for agricultural sciences.

Lycée professionnel

The lycée professionnel leads to several different vocational diplomas. The courses are designed for students who do not plan to continue into higher education. The vocational training is for craftspeople and involves internships in commercial enterprises. The courses are suitable for students who are more interested in a hands-on educational approach than in academic schooling.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Children & families." (Archive) City of Paris. Retrieved on 20 July 2010.
  2. ^ H. D. Lewis (1985). The French Education System. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 0-7099-1683-3.
  3. ^ Jean-Michel Chapoulie. Les professeurs de l'enseignement secondaire : Un métier de classe moyenne. 01/01/87. Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. p3. ISBN 2-7351-0203-3.
  4. ^ ex : Lycée Henri IV
  5. ^ official statistics

External links

Benjamin Pinto Bull

Benjamin Pinto Bull (1916 – 25 January 2005) was an activist in Guinea-Bissau, then Portuguese Guinea, who sought his country's independence from Portugal.He was born into a leading family in Bolama in Portuguese Guinea, the younger brother of Jaime (or James) Pinto Bull, and received a secondary education in France before entering a seminary at Viana do Castelo in Portugal.

After some time he gave up the idea of becoming a priest and returned to Guinea, where he worked as a customs official. As a nationalist, albeit a non-violent one, Pinto Bull fell foul of the Portuguese State Police (PIDE) and sought sanctuary in Senegal, where he made friends with Léopold Sédar Senghor, the poet-politician who would one day become the first President of Senegal. He made his way to Paris to continue his studies and returned to Senegal to teach in Dakar.

He founded and was first president of the Uniao dos Naturais da Guine Portuguesa (UNGP), a political movement which sought progressive peaceful independence of Guinea from Portugal, contrary to the more revolutionary aims of other independence groups. In 1962 the UNGP joined with the Frente de Luta Pela Independencia Nacional da Guine-Bissau (FLING) and Pinto Bull became a leader in the combined organisation. In July 1963, he held a fruitless meeting, arranged by Léopold Senghor, to discuss his country's independence with António de Oliveira Salazar, the Prime Minister of Portugal.By this time the revolutionary groups had gone into action and so Pinto Bull withdrew to teach at the University of Dakar until moving in 1984 to teach at universities in Lisbon. By 1973 Guinea-Bissau had achieved its independence.

Pinto Bull died in Lisbon in 2005.

Eleventh grade

Eleventh grade, junior year, or grade 11 (called Year 12 in England) is the eleventh, and for some countries final, grade of secondary schools. Students are typically 16–17 years of age, depending on the country and the students' birthdays.

French Academy (disambiguation)

The French Academy is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language.

French Academy may also refer to:

French Academy in Rome, an art school in Italy

French Academy of Sciences, a scientific society

French Academy of Technologies, a learned society with an emphasis on technology

French academy (administrative body), the territorial administration that oversee secondary education in France

International College, Beirut

International College, Beirut, Lebanon, is an independent non-profit international school. Its students come from all over Lebanon, as well as the Middle-East and around the world. With two campuses, one in the Lebanese capital Beirut and the other in the urban hillsides (Ain Aar), the school educates over 3,500 students each year. The school was established in 1891 and is chartered in Massachusetts, US.

The Vision of International College is to inspire learners of today to be global citizen leaders of tomorrow.

John Meyendorff

John Meyendorff (French: Jean Meyendorff; Russian: Ива́н Феофи́лович Мейендо́рф, tr. Iván Feofílovich Meyendórf; February 17, 1926 – July 22, 1992) was a leading theologian of the Orthodox Church of America as well as a writer and teacher. He served as the dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in the United States until June 30, 1992.


The lyceum is a category of educational institution defined within the education system of many countries, mainly in Europe. The definition varies among countries; usually it is a type of secondary school.

Lycée (disambiguation)

Lycée may refer to:

Lycée, a school providing secondary education in France

Lycée Français, an international network of private schools approved by the AEFE

Lycèe Trading Card Game, a Japanese collectable card game featuring characters from famous visual novels.

A number of French-based secondary schools, see Category:French international schools

Lycée Edgar-Poe

The Lycée Edgar-Poe is a private secondary school located in Paris, 2, rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, in the 10th arrondissement, very close to Le Grand Rex. It is named after the American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849). This school is far from the rue Edgar-Poe (19th arrondissement of Paris).

Its motto is « L’intérêt pour l’élève développe l’intérêt de l’élève » ('"The interest for the student develops the student's interest"). Its director is Mrs Evelyne Clinet. In 2011, it is the first secondary school of Paris and of the Île-de-France region considering the results at the Baccalauréat.It is close to the Bonne Nouvelle Paris Métro station.

Lycée Henri-IV

The Lycée Henri-IV is a public secondary school located in Paris. Along with Louis-le-Grand and Lycée Condorcet it is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious and demanding sixth-form colleges (lycées) in France.

The school has more than 2,500 students from collège (the first four years of secondary education in France) to classes préparatoires (classes to prepare students for entrance to the elite grandes écoles such as École normale supérieure, École polytechnique, Centrale Paris, Mines ParisTech, ESSEC Business School or HEC Paris, among others).Its motto is "Domus Omnibus Una" ("A Home For All").

Lycée Hoche

The Lycée Hoche is a public secondary school located in Versailles, not very far away from the famous Palace of Versailles. Formerly, it had been a nunnery founded by French queen Marie Leszczyńska. However, after the French Revolution, it became a school in 1803. In 1888, the school was named "Lycée Hoche" after the French general Lazare Hoche who was born in Versailles.

Together with Lycée Henri-IV, Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Lycée Stanislas and Lycée Sainte-Geneviève, the Lycée Hoche is one of the most prestigious schools in France for undergraduate education. Each year, scores of students coming from its preparatory classes are admitted to France's most renowned graduate schools, such as the École Polytechnique, the École Normale Supérieure, HEC Paris and ESSEC Business School.

The 200 years history of this school can be found in the recent book (June 2010) written by the French teacher Marie-Louise Mercier-Jouve: "Le lycee Hoche de Versailles , deux cents ans d'histoire" edited by Patrice Dupuy's editions, Paris.

Lycée Louis-le-Grand

The Lycée Louis-le-Grand (French pronunciation: ​[lise lwi lə gʁɑ̃]) is a prestigious secondary school located in Paris. Founded in 1563 by the Jesuits as the Collège de Clermont, it was renamed in King Louis XIV of France's honor after he extended his direct patronage to it in 1682. It offers both a sixth-form college curriculum (as a lycée or high school with 800 pupils), and a post-secondary-level curriculum (classes préparatoires with 900 students), preparing students for entrance to the elite Grandes écoles for research, such as the École normale supérieure (Paris), for engineering, such as the École Polytechnique, or for business, such as HEC Paris. Students at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand are called magnoludoviciens.

Louis-le-Grand, founded in 1563, is located in the heart of the Quartier Latin, the traditional student district of Paris. The lycée is situated opposite the Sorbonne and adjacent to the Collège de France. Its southern side opens onto the place du Panthéon, which is the location of its historical rival, the Lycée Henri-IV. These two lycées are home to the oldest preparatory classes in France, which are commonly viewed as the most selective in the country.

Because of this, Louis-le-Grand is considered to play an important role in the education of French elites. Many of its former pupils have become influential scientists, statesmen, diplomats, prelates, intellectuals and writers. "The Jesuit College of Paris", wrote Élie de Beaumont in 1862, "has for a long time been a state nursery, the most fertile in great men". Indeed, former students have included writers Molière, Victor Hugo and Charles Baudelaire, revolutionaries Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, as well as seven former presidents of the French Republic and countless other ministers and prime ministers, philosophers such as Voltaire, the Marquis de Sade, Diderot, Emile Durkheim, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cavaillès and Jacques Derrida, scientists Évariste Galois, Henri Poincaré and Laurent Schwartz, and artists Eugène Delacroix, Edgar Degas and Georges Méliès. Renowned foreign students of the lycée include King Nicholas I of Montenegro, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Saint Francis de Sales.

Admission to Louis-Le-Grand is very competitive; the strict selection process is based on academic grades, drawing from middle schools (for entry into high school) and high schools (for entry into the preparatory classes) throughout France. Its educational standards are highly rated and the working conditions are considered optimal due to its demanding recruitment of teachers. Louis-Le-Grand students generally achieve excellent results; topping national rankings for baccalauréat grades in high school and entry into the best grandes écoles in the preparatory classes.

Lycée Pasteur (Neuilly-sur-Seine)

The Lycée Pasteur (French: Lycée Pasteur de Neuilly-sur-Seine) is a French state-run secondary school in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris. It accepts students from collège (the first four years of secondary education in France) through to classes préparatoires (classes to prepare students for entrance to the elite Grandes écoles). Built in the grounds of the former chateau de Neuilly, the lycée is named in honour of Louis Pasteur. It was originally planned to open in October 1914 but with the advent of the First World War the building was instead used as a military hospital by American Field Services and not inaugurated until October 1923.

It was used as the location for the film, Neuilly sa mère !

Lycée Saint Cricq

The Saint-Cricq High School, known in French as Lycée Saint-Cricq is a public High school in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France.

There are 1321 students (2009/2010). The pupils are 15 to 18 years old for preparing to take the baccalauréat and 18 to 20 years old for doing a post baccalauréat formation. When the pupils arrive in the high school for the first time, they participate in an integration day with a sport activity, e.g. rafting. The high school organizes journeys to Denver in the United States for the European class; one year, the Americans go to France and the next, French people visit the United States. The provisiorcode: fra promoted to code: fr is Alain Grateau.

Lycée du Parc

The Lycée du Parc is a public secondary school located in the sixth arrondissement of Lyon, France. Its name comes from the Parc de la Tête d'Or, one of Europe's largest urban parks, which is situated nearby.

It provides a lycée-level education and also offers classes préparatoires, or prépas, preparing students for entrance to the elite Grandes Écoles such as Ecole Polytechnique, Centrale Paris, ESSEC Business school or HEC Paris.

The school was built on the cite of the former Lunette des Charpennes, part of the Ceintures de Lyon system of fortifications built in the 19th century.

Mariama Bâ

Mariama Bâ (April 17, 1929 – August 17, 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, who wrote in French. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim. At an early age she came to criticize what she perceived as inequalities between the sexes resulting from African traditions. Raised by her traditional grandparents, she had to struggle even to gain an education, because they did not believe that girls should be taught. Bâ later married a Senegalese member of Parliament, Obèye Diop-Tall, but divorced him and was left to care for their nine children.

Her frustration with the fate of African women—as well as her ultimate acceptance of it—is expressed in her first novel, So Long a Letter. In it she depicts the sorrow and resignation of a woman who must share the mourning for her late husband with his second, younger wife. Abiola Irele called it "the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction". This short book was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980.

Bâ died a year later after a protracted illness, before the publication of her second novel, Scarlet Song, which is a love story between two star-crossed lovers from different ethical backgrounds fighting the tyranny of tradition.

Pierre Clostermann

Pierre Henri Clostermann (28 February 1921 – 22 March 2006) was a French flying ace.

Joining the Free French Air Force in Britain in 1942, Clostermann scored 33 recorded victories, earning the accolade "France's First Fighter" from General Charles de Gaulle. His many decorations included the Grand-Croix of the French Légion d'Honneur, the Croix de Guerre, and the DFC and bar. His wartime reminiscences The Big Show (Le Grand Cirque) became a notable bestseller. After the war, he worked as an engineer and became a député (Member of Parliament).

Saint Jean Hulst

Saint Jean Hulst is a secondary school located in Versailles (France).

Saint Jean Hulst, founded in 1878, is located in the heart of Versailles. The old term Saint Jean de Béthune is still often seen and used.

The school has more than 3,000 students from collège (the first four years of secondary education in France) to lyceum.

It is known for its Baccalauréat results: 100% accepted from 2006 to 2014.

Moreover, it is worth mentioning that Saint Jean Hulst is the third largest contributor of the (French pronunciation: ​[lɛ̃stity detyd pɔlitik dəpaˈʁi]; Paris Institute of Political Studies), Sciences Po, in 2009.

Sophie Crumb

Sophia Violet "Sophie" Crumb (born September 27, 1981) is an American-French comics artist. She is the daughter of underground comix artists Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

Crumb was born in Woodland, California and lived in the nearby farming town of Winters with her parents until she was nine years old. In 1991, she relocated with her family to Sauve, a village in Southern France. Her parents reported that they wanted to remove her from the political conservatives and Christian fundamentalists of the United States. In a 2010 interview, Sophie told The Philadelphia Inquirer that her mother was afraid Sophie would "turn into a Valley girl".It was after this relocation that Terry Zwigoff released Crumb (1994), a critically acclaimed documentary film about Sophie's father and their family. Zwigoff later commissioned Sophie to prepare some original drawings for inclusion in his 2001 comedy-drama, Ghost World, an adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comics serial of the same name.

After completing her secondary education in France, Crumb studied acrobatics and clowning at a French circus school. While living in Brooklyn in the mid-2000s she sold her comics on the street and apprenticed herself to a tattoo artist. At another stage she earned a living by teaching English as a foreign language.She lives in Southern France with her husband (a construction worker) and their son, Eli, who was born in 2009.

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