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French primary school: a parent's guidance

Updated: Mar 8






Table of Contents


  1. Embracing Early Education in France

  2. The Structure of French Primary Education

  3. Understanding the French Approach to Education

  4. The Daily Life in French Primary Schools

  5. Choosing Between Public and Private Schools in France

  6. Enrolling Your Child in a French School

  7. Exploring International Schools in France

  8. Making an Informed Decision

Are you moving to France with your little ones? It's essential to know about the schools there to make moving easier. This guide is here to help, showing you what schools in France are like. We'll talk about the main things you need to know to sign up your child for school in France, from choosing between local or private schools to understanding how schools in France work.


Let's start learning about what you must do to get your child into a French school and what makes these schools unique.


Embracing Early Education in France

In France, education starts young. At three years old, children enter école primaire, beginning with école maternelle, akin to preschool. This gentle introduction to group learning continues until they're six. Then, they advance to école élémentaire, focusing on foundational subjects like literacy, math, and science until age 11.


With over 50,000 elementary schools and 6.6 million students, France offers a broad array of educational environments. Most schools are state-run, and parents usually choose the local option. Class sizes are relatively small, averaging 23 students, fostering a more personalized learning experience.


The Structure of French Primary Education

State primary schools, attended by most 6 to 12-year-olds, are free, secular, and coeducational. Parents typically cover only meal and excursion costs, with support available for low-income families.


In école maternelle, kids learn by playing. They get creative, solve problems, and learn to be with others. This helps them grow on their own and with friends. After that, in école élémentaire, learning gets more organized. Kids study in small groups based on what they're good at, helping them learn even more.


Understanding the French Approach to Education

French education is renowned for its high reading standards. However, it's worth noting that classroom dynamics can be more formal, and external factors like socioeconomic background can influence performance, especially in underprivileged areas. Despite this, the commitment to providing quality education is evident, ensuring your child receives a solid foundation for future learning.


While France doesn't typically offer boarding for primary students, exceptions exist for children facing challenging home situations or behavioral issues.


The Daily Life in French Primary Schools

A typical week involves 24 hours of instruction, excluding Wednesdays when many schools are partially or fully closed. The school year starts in September, with breaks like the two-week Toussaint in autumn and holidays in December, February/March, and April. Summer vacation spans July and August, offering a substantial break before the new academic year.


Choosing Between Public and Private Schools in France

Choosing a school in France is a big decision. Public schools are close to your home, don't involve religion, and don't usually cost anything. Private schools might cost money, but they can have different ways of teaching, fewer kids in each class, and even better places to learn.


Enrolling Your Child in a French School

Enrollment is straightforward. Register by June for the upcoming September start. Gather necessary documents like birth certificates, immunization records, and proof of residence. Remember, some documents may need an official translation.


Exploring International Schools in France

Consider international schools offering diverse curriculums and languages for a more global approach. These schools often provide a high-quality, multicultural environment but can be more expensive. Researching financing options, like scholarships or employer contributions, is advisable.


Making an Informed Decision

Picking the right school in France means thinking about how good the education is, how much it lets your child experience the culture, and how much it costs. Knowing how schools work in France helps you make an excellent choice for your kid's future.


We hope this guide makes you feel ready and sure as you explore primary schools in France. Remember, a well-informed decision paves the way for a rewarding educational journey for your child. Bonne chance (good luck)!


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