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School System

Published on November 29, 2007

School System


In France, school is compulsory from six to sixteen years old. From nursery school to higher education, families have the option of sending their children to free and coeducational public schools, or to pay for private ones.

The French school system
If you choose a state-run school for your child, you must choose one in your neighborhood. The local city hall (mairie) will tell you what your options are.

From the age of 2 or 3 children can attend the local kindergarten (maternelle), which is state run and administered by the local authorities.

Comparison of the educational system in France and in the U.S.

In France

In the U.S.

2-3 yrs old Maternelle (petite section) 2-3 yrs old Preschool (Daycare)
3-4 yrs old Maternelle (petite section) 3-4 yrs old Preschool (Daycare)
4-5 yrs old Maternelle (moyenne section) 4-5 yrs old Preschool
5-6 yrs old Maternelle (grande section) 5-6 yrs old Kindergarten

Ecole primaire

Elementary school

6-7 yrs old Onzième (CP) 6-7 yrs old 1st grade
7-8 yrs old Dixième (CE1) 7-8 yrs old 2nd grade
8-9 yrs old Neuvième (CE2) 8-9 yrs old 3rd grade
9-10 yrs old Huitième (CM1) 9-10 yrs old 4th grade
10-11 yrs old Septième (CM2) 10-11 yrs old 5th grade


Junior High School

11-12 yrs old Sizième 11-12 yrs old 6th grade
12-13 yrs old Cinquième 12-13 yrs old 7th grade
13-14 yrs old Quatrième 13-14 yrs old 8th grade
14-15 yrs old Troisième

High school


14-15 yrs old 9th grade
15-16 yrs old Seconde 15-16 yrs old 10th grade
16-17 yrs old Première 16-17 yrs old 11th grade
17-18 yrs old Terminale 17-18 yrs old 12th grade

At 15 or 16 the more academic children go to the "lycée" to prepare for the "baccalauréat" (commonly called the bac). Less academically inclined students attend a vocational/technical school or get practical training.

The bac is the high school diploma taken at 18 or 19 which guarantees entry into university.

How to register your child to a public school?
Contact the Service des Ecoles at the City Hall (mairie) or the school directly. When you apply to a school you must bring along your passport, your child’s birth certificate, a recent electricity bill (EDF/GDF), and proof of your child’s immunizations. Applications should be made in the Spring before the Fall Term.

Private schools
Private schools are either subsidized by the government or not. Sponsored schools therefore have much lower tuition fees than non- sponsored ones. You should apply as soon as possible.

American Schools in France
Please refer to the website of the American Embassy in Paris for a listing of American schools in France.

Higher education in France?

Visit CampusFrance. CampsuFrance is a service provided by the Embassy of France to Americans and U.S. residents who wish to pursue their higher studies in France.

Students intending to enroll in a French university, on their own or through a study abroad program, are required to pre-register through the CampusFrance website.

CampusFrance is above all an information and guidance center on studies in France, thanks to its dedicated staff and its website. CampusFrance also makes it possible for applications to be processed entirely online and digitally, cutting wait times considerably and offering real-time updates on an application’s status.

Need a grant?
The French Government allocates a considerable number of grants to foreign students every year. Apply to the Studies Office of the Embassy for a study grant application form or an internship or training course grant application form:
Visit the following websites for more information:

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