French Education System

In France, education has a clear goal: the system must always produce a group of well-educated individuals with a common culture, language and abilities that can then serve the State. The French educational system has a very large emphasis on content, culturally specific knowledge, scientific and mathematic knowledge. The system is designed to serve the needs of the state; the individuality and originality are not considered worth while values The French Republic has 60 million inhabitants, living in the 22 regions of metropolitan France and four overseas departments (1. million). Despite the fact that the population is growing slightly (up 0. 4% a year), the number and proportion of young people under 25 are, however, falling: there are now fewer than 19 million of them in metropolitan France, i. e. 32% of the total population, compared with 40% around 1970 and 35% at the time of the 1990 census.

France is seeing a slow aging of the population — less marked however than in other neighbouring countries (Germany and Italy), especially as the annual number of births is currently increasing slightly. 5 million pupils and students, i. e. a quarter of the population, are in the education system. Just over 2 million are in higher education. In 1999, France’s GDP was close to FF 9,000 billion (EUR 1,330 billion), i. e. FF 150,000 (EUR 22,000) per inhabitant. Of this total, just over FF 600 billion (EUR 95 billion) were devoted to initial or continuing education: 7. 2% of GDP. As far as school education spending is concerned, France is in a middle position, behind the Nordic countries (Sweden and Denmark), but fairly significantly ahead of Italy and Japan.

France has a workforce today of 26 million, of whom fewer than 2 million are unemployed: the unemployment rate recently fell to below 9%. 6% of the labor force (about 1. 5 million jobs, including 1 million civil servants and local government officers) are undergoing training. Educational Structure Around 13 million pupils attend school in France.

The system is a unified one, whose present general structure (primary schools, colleges, lycees) was gradually put in place during the 1960s and 1970s, ending the formerly more compartmentalized system which was based on a clear separation between rimary and secondary education. Since the 1970s, France has also had an outstanding record with respect to the development of pre-school education; all 3- to 5-year-olds can go to nursery classes. Since 1967, school attendance has been compulsory for those from 6 to 16 years of age. France has 60,000 primary schools catering to pupils during their first five years of formal education: the first three years (CP – cours preparatoire cours elementaire 1 and 2) provide a grounding in the basic skills. The next stage – CM1/CM2 (cours moyen 1 and 2) takes the children up to the end of primary school.

Secondary schooling is divided into two successive stages, known as cycles. From 11 to 15 years, almost all children now attend a college, taking them from form 6 (sixieme) to form 3 (troisieme) (1). Since 1975 there has been a single mixed-ability college for all pupils regardless of their level of achievement. After form 3, they move onto a general, technical or vocational lycee. These prepare pupils for the corresponding baccalaureatexaminations (referred to as le bac), which they normally take at the age of 18.