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French Education system

I've been running KidooLand since 2007 .. generally these blog posts are for our many French clients (in French) but every now and again I think of something that my co-Anglo community might want to know about.

In this article I share my thoughts on the French education system and what to expect if you move here.

It was inspired by my daughter Daisy Beauvoisin-Brown who is studying education systèmes and psychology at Uni. She sent me a link to her latest essay which had to take the form of a web page..

I included below the video she also references and another one that will also outline the school system here.

The French education system is renowned for its formal and rigorous structure, emphasising academic excellence. Here’s a brief overview, sprinkled with insights from my own experiences and observations.

Let's take a little look behind the curtain at what to expect.

Primary Education (École Élémentaire

Primary Education (École Élémentaire): From ages 6-11, children are introduced to a more formal educational environment. Core subjects like French, Maths, and Science take centre stage. My experience shows the need for a more holistic approach here, integrating creative and practical learning.

CP (Cours Préparatoire): This is the first year of primary school, for children around 6 years old. It focuses on basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. You will probably also get a poem a week to learn!

CE1 (Cours Élémentaire 1): For 7-year-olds, this second year consolidates the basics learned in CP and introduces more complex concepts.

CE2 (Cours Élémentaire 2): In this third year, for 8-year-olds, there's a continued emphasis on fundamental skills with a gradual introduction to more subjects.

CM1 (Cours Moyen 1): For 9-year-olds, this class marks the beginning of the upper primary stage, with a broader and more in-depth curriculum.

CM2 (Cours Moyen 2): The final year of primary school for 10-year-olds, where students prepare for the transition to secondary education (collège).

Secondary Education (Collège and Lycée):

School lunches

🔍 From running KidooLand and exploring educational models like Montessori .. visiting Finland to experience and tour their system , I’ve observed that children thrive in environments that blend structure with creativity and autonomy.

The French public education system, while strong academically, often misses this balance.

I also advocate for an approach where children are active participants in their learning journey, echoing my learnings from Finland's education system.

So often I saw here ancient powerpoints being used and outdated , tired methods .

In a world of TikTok like it or not, our teaching methods need to get a big update and move with the times.

Our children are learning so quickly online that copying down notes after notes seems pointless.

That's why over the years we have had dance teachers, art teachers and theatre teachers within the KidooLand walls so that I could ensure my own children were getting this exposure. (Read a blog on STEAM in KidooLand)

The Baccalaureate


Both our children went through the full French system and in addition to the standard Bac added extra lessons in order to do the Bac with International Option in the CIV and Fenelon. I have to say it was really tough .

We got to points with both where they were really cracking under it all.

I am relieved to say that they did get through it, got great Bacs with "Mentions" and went on to top universities in the U.K.

After watching this video above however - I had serious mum guilt. I called my daughter and asked her did we make a mistake in moving to France and putting them through this.

Her answer in fact was no. She feels she left school with a great grounding and depth in many subjects, discipline and the ability to work hard.

I suppose I have the benefit of having gone through the UK system myself and having watched them in the French system. Also in education myself I regularly am reading reports and books on different structures out there.

PISA - and why it's important (The Programme for International Student Assessment)

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a global evaluation of education systems organized by the OECD.

I have been reading it for well over 10 years now. It is conducted every three years and assesses 15-year-old students' abilities in reading, mathematics, and science.

PISA aims to measure how well young adults have acquired key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society.

It provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of teaching methods and curricula in different countries, influencing educational policies and reforms worldwide.

The results offer a comparison of educational standards across participating countries, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement in each education system.

Crucially too it also looks at mental health.

It takes so long to compile the research and results that the 2022 findings were only published in December 2023. Of course they look at pandemic impact and the results are really worrying for France as a nation .

The 2022 PISA results showed a decline in mathematics and reading compared to 2018 (i.e. pre pandemic), while science scores remained similar.

This was one of the lowest overall performances in all three subjects since PISA's inception. Mathematics saw an unprecedented drop following a stable period, reading has been declining since around 2012, and while science results fell below 2015 levels, the trend direction is unclear.

The performance gap between the highest and lowest scorers didn't significantly change in mathematics and reading but widened in science.

 It was one of the reasons we decided to launch Science as a subject for 2023/4 and are thinking about Maths too.  

I'm looking forward to PISA 2025 (available end of 2026) because for the first time there will be an assessment of 2nd languages with the first focus on English as a second language.


The school day in France is LONG!

In France I remember mainly getting up at the crack of dawn , in the dark. When I stayed with friends in the UK we were sitting chatting and having a cup of tea at 8h45 .. I couldn't believe the difference!

Here's a comparison of school hours and weeks per year for English and French schools but is is quite generalised and can vary by region and school . this is for a typical all French system .. for those in schools like the CIV and Fenelon doing an International programme you can add on more hours in the French ststem.

French Schools

English Schools

Daily School Hours

Generally 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, varying by region. In college any Lycée children will often start at 8 a.m. and finish at 5p.m.

8:45 AM to 3:15 PM though as mentioned my friend did 9-3:30

Weekly School Hours

32 hours a week rising to 40 hours for the Bac.

32.50 hours per week

School Days per Week

4 to 4.5 days, with some having half-day Wednesdays

5 days

Weeks of School per Year

At least 36 weeks

Around 39 weeks in state schools

Total hours in a year

1,152 hours/year

1,267.5 hours/year

It's important to note that this is a general comparison and there are many variations in both countries.

However my big takeaway is that with travel time and homework - the French school day is far too long. We often were waking at 6:30am to take the school bus at 7:30a.m. to be at school for 8 a.m.

Returning on the 5:15pm bus home 5:45 pm with perhaps 2 hours of homework to do.

Where is the fun and joy that child hood is supposed to bring?

Actually shortening the french holidays in the year and then shortening their days would be a better way of averaging out the child's workload.

I say that despite it having a huge impact on the KidooLand business model as we rely on the school holidays for our business as children generally are too tired to come to us after their long day at school .

In addition .. today's society does not lend itself to the 9-3h30 schedule anymore.

Generally with both parents working they want childcare from 8-6p.m. sometimes even more.

It is quite the conundrum having a huge impact on our little learners lives.


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