HANDOUT 9  French education system part II.  Post secondary education.
See Handout 9 I : French education system part I.


Science park in Poitiers (Futuroscope/
Bibliotheque nationale, Paris/
Cite des Sciences, La Villette, Paris/
Bibliotheque, centre Pompidou, Paris

Higher Education in France is an experience quite different from the USA. It's the European approach to education.  If one goes by looks and amenities, certainly the French universities pale by comparison with American universities.   French academia has no interest in high prestige sports teams, the emphasis is strictly on academic matter and research. The French has the bibliotheque Nationale (e.g lib of Congress ) easily accessible and it is believed that all universities carry the same standards.  French universities can be very old (they started in the Middle Ages e.g La Sorbonne )  and  have been producing great minds. The tendency nowadays is still to consider universities as a place for reflexion and learning first and foremost.  They do not have a vocational approach.
            Higher education in France is world-renowned for its quality and
            accessibility. Tuition and health insurance at public schools are paid for by
            the French government. Admission and promotion is through a system of
            merit-based examinations. Thus, intellectually qualified students are
            ensured a fair chance of pursuing their educational goals, regardless of their
            financial or social status.
            France leads the European Community in welcoming foreign students to its
            schools and universities, with over 120,000 guests registered in French
            educational institutions.
            French public and private post-secondary educational institutions are divided
            into the following categories:
            > Universities
            > "Grandes Ecoles"
            > Architecture Programs
            > Business Schools
            > Engineering Schools
            > Health Care Programs
            > Journalism
            > Political Studies Institutes (IEP)
            > Visual and Applied Arts Programs                                                   . 
                                                                                                                                                                                  fig. Sorbonne-auditorium

UniversitiesFrench public universities aim to give a general education of high level in all academic areas.  These are completely subsidized by the government. Registration fees for the academic year are in the range of 750 to 4500FF(approximately $125 to $750) in public institutions of higher education. In some cases, additional fees to cover health insurance (sécurité sociale), ranging from 2,500 to 5,000FF (about $430 to $860 depending on the currency exchange rate), can also be incurred. These costs do not include living expenses.
Degrees:  2 year degree=  Diplôme d'Etudes Supérieures
BA= 3 year = Licence
MA= 4 year = Maîtrise
Ph.D= 7 years =Doctorat
fig. Ecole Normale Sup, Lyon
Grandes Ecoles are Institutions in higher education  that  limit the number of applicants admitted. Very competitive. To prepare for entrance competitions(e.g one in five gain admission ), lycee students must enrol in preparatory classes.(2 years PREPA).   Students must sit for the competition corresponding to the stream taken in preparatory classes: scientific, technological and economic. These schools have a professional specialization that is not covered in universities : Grandes Ecoles:  "Ecoles Polytechniques" (Engineering schools);    Ecoles  Superieures de Commerce e.g. HEC/ESC, Bordeaux,  or Lyon, Paris.... (Business Schools)note: Business schools are funded by companies via the Chamber of  Commerce. "Ecole Nationale d'Administration" e.g. ENA ( Public Administration Schools), Ecoles Normales Superieures (Higher Institutes for Education) .

Institutions for specific studies with a more vocational approach other than Engineering, Business, Administration (Grandes Ecoles)

  • Schools of Medecine (attached to universities);Health Care Programs.
  • Performing Arts programs are NOT included in the university system .
  • Other institutions:Visual and Applied Arts Programs e.g. Cinema.   Music Conservatoire of Music.   National School of Fine Arts called "les Beaux Arts" offer Architecture Programs;  Painting  etc...
  • There are also specialist schools for Journalism

  • New Trends: France is diversifying the options for post secondary education . Europe is opening new exchange programs between universities.
    Higher education evening courses ( takes longer) for people who work.
    Programs of the European Union:  concerning education.  Focus on mobility: Erasmus/Lingua/Socrates are european exchange programs = enable students of any European country to study for a year in another university of the Union. This confirms the European commitment to the study of the other languages of the Union.
    Handout 9 --Questions : 
    1.  At what age can little French kids start "school"?

    2. What are the US equivalents of  CES ?  of  Lycee ? 

    3. In class Video clip: Where was the CES Pierre Brossolette located in the community of Nogent le Retroux?  What socio-economic group does the school attract?  How does the school adapt the curriculum to the needs of students?

    • Video clip: The CES Arsene Meunier : where do you think that this school located?  Are there differences in the curriculum of this CES?
    • What is the approach regarding special education needs in this CES ?
    • Video clip:What is the US equivalent of the LYCEE? Who is resident (boarding school) in the LYCEE? 
    • What is the innovation at the LYCEE of Nogent le Retroux to help students face the working world?
    • What is the BAC?  The BAC can be of different types. Give some examples of specialization. 
    ---Can you explain the fact that the BAC -artistique (plastic arts) was created after MAY 68?
    • Extra-curricular activities: comments?
    4. DO you notice some differences between the French and US secondary school systems? e.g.  programs, atmosphere in schools/in classes, community and social activities ....Comments.

    Reflexion to complete after reading the online articles below: 

  • Issues in Education  http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/france/gb/societe/societe09.html(under profile/society)
  • Continuity and Change in the System   http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/france/gb/societe/societe10.html
  • Adapting Vocational Training  http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/france/gb/societe/societe13.htm
  • kindergarden:http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/france/gb/societe/societe11.html
  • Collège (CES) http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/france/gb/societe/societe11.html
  • Lycée  http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/france/gb/societe/societe11.html

  • Questions:
    1--Give the pro and cons of an education system that focuses on standarized programs and national standards and exams in the primary and secondary education system as well as imposes entrance exams and preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles and for some top professional specialized schools (e.g schools of art/ architecture)

    2--.  It is said (see online article: Continuity and Change in the System) that school has a symbolic importance for the French. What is it? Which are the principles that govern France 's concept of education ? 

    3--. France devotes its largest budget to education -7.3% of GDP , also its education system is the biggest employer, yet there were and still are issues in education.    Outline these .

    4. What is the origin and purpose of the system of the higher education institutions called the Grandes Ecoles ?  Explain .

    5. Vocational training : cite some of the measures that France has taken to help the students on a non-academic track, at the secondary school level.

    6. What does "secular" mean in the context of schools in France?  Can you explain ?  Is this a problem for  multi -culturalism   in the French classrooms is creating? 


    Study in France? http://www.edufrance.fr/ infos for foreigners
    French Cultural Services of the French Embassy:http://www. frenchculture.org/
    Further reading: "Everything about French education "sites (click on English options)
    Magazine: Label France no41 on education and the internet.http://www.france.diplomatie.fr/label_france/label.gb.html
    Ministry of Education  http://www.education.gouv.fr
    French cultural services of Embassy: http://www.frenchculture.org/education/france/index.html )i
    EduFrance(student exchanges): www.edufrance.fr
    Educnet: information technology and distance learning:www.educnet.education.fr
    Distance learning center: www.cned.fr
    Le Rond-Point : on-line university courses:http://rond-point.org/cours
    Europedu : promotion of European student mobility: www.sup.adc.education.fr/europedu/french/index.html
    Télésavoirs: topics on the internet (e.g. art) (www.canalweb.net)
    Cyber Papy: intergeneration on-line help (www.cyberpapy.com)
    - L'Université de tous les savoirs(366 courses on all human knowledge/interactive)(www.2000enfrance.com/sites/utls)
    Savoir universel : interactive writing project with writers e.g. Furio Colombo, Umberto Eco et Jacques Le Goff, l'Académie, (www.academie-universelle.asso.fr) :title" Accepting diversity"