French schools and education

Primary education: Attendance at the Ecole Primaire lasts for five years, from age 6 to age 11 Lower Secondary education: Attendance at the College lasts for four years, from 11 to 15. Upper Secondary education: Attendance for 3 years, age 15 to 18. Pupils may opt either for general/technological education in lycées, preparing for the Baccalauréat in three years; or for technical/vocational education in lycées professionnels, preparing first for the Certificat d'Aptitude Professionnelle (CAP) or the Brevet d'Etudes Professionnelles (BEP) in two years and then, for those who want to continue, for the Baccalauréat professionnel in two more years.

Higher Education in France

Higher education in France is characterised by a dual system: it is provided in universities (including polytechnics or Instituts Nationaux Polytechniques) open to a large number of students, whose programmes are generally geared towards research and its applications, and in Grandes Ecoles and other professional higher education institutions with selective admission policies. Whereas most institutions come under the responsibility of the Ministry of Youth, Education and Research, some Grandes Ecoles come under the aegis of other ministries.


Universities are made up of units offering curricula in academic fields and of various institutes and schools – such as the IUT (University Institutes of Technology) – offering courses in Engineering and Technology and special programmes in Management, Political Science, Languages and Physical Education, the IUFM (Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres) which offer training courses for primary and secondary school teachers, and the IUP (Instituts Universitaires Professionalisés), which offer technological courses and practical training with an introduction to research and foreign languages.

The Grandes Ecoles offer a high standard of professional education in three or more years after two years of preparatory classes and the passing of a very selective competitive entrance examination. They offer scientific training, teacher training or advanced business studies. Five Catholic higher education institutes prepare for either national and professional diplomas or for church diplomas. National diplomas are conferred by universities.

Non-university level

Technical/vocational short study courses last for two years after the Baccalauréat and lead to the Brevet de Technicien supérieur (BTS), a national diploma awarded in vocational and service areas. Courses are provided in lycées.

The Diplome Universitaire de Technologie (DUT) is offered in Instituts Universitaires de Technologie to train middle-level managers in Industry and Commerce. The Diplome d’Etudes Universitaires Scientifiques et Techniques (DEUST) is offered in various fields related to national or regional needs. DUT and DEUST diplomas are offered in university institutions and are equivalent to a first cycle in a university. A DUT graduate may, in some cases, pursue higher studies leading to the Licence and other degrees.

Expat Schools in France

These are truly private in the sense that is understood in the UK, and are designed to provide flexible, dual-speaking education for those whose primary language is not French, although the increasing use of the French language is encouraged. Fees would be about ten thousand Euros per annum for day school.

Private Schools in France

Approximately 14% of primary schools and 20% of secondary schools in France are “private”. This has a different connotation to the UK in that there is considerably less social segregation in French private schools and considerably more state funding. The level of education is not necessarily any better than in the French state schools, but private schools tend to cater for different particularities, such as special requirements, religion, etc. Private schools in France are usually considerably less expensive than in the UK.

Useful Information