Primary and secondary education
Primary and secondary education in France
As of September 2020, all children aged 3 to 18 have to go to school.
Primary education consists of 2 phases:
- 3 years of kindergarten (école maternelle), aimed at children aged 3 to 6;
- 6 years of elementary school (école élémentaire), aimed at children aged 6 to 12.
Secondary education (enseignement secondaire) is for pupils aged 12 to 18. It consists of 2 phases:
- lower secondary education, which concludes with exams for a Diplôme national du brevet;
- upper secondary education, which concludes with exams for 1 of the following diplomas:
In upper secondary education, pupils choose a direction (voie) which determines the diploma they will eventually obtain.
Please note: do you have a Diplôme du baccalauréat professionnel? You will find more information about this on the secondary vocational education web page.
Diplôme national du brevet
Pupils conclude lower secondary education with exams for a Diplôme national du brevet. They follow their education at a collège.
- : 4 years.
- Content: general education subjects, such as:
- Français (French)
- géographie (geography)
- l’histoire (history)
- mathématiques (mathematics)
- sciences (science, a combination of biology, chemistry, physics and technology)
- Function of the diploma: access to upper secondary education.
- Diploma: Diplôme national du brevet.
The official length of the full-time programme (not part-time) without study delay.
We compare a Diplôme national du brevet to at least 3 years of general secondary education.
Diplôme du baccalauréat général
Pupils who choose the general direction in upper secondary education (la voie général) conclude it with exams for a Diplôme du baccalauréat général. They follow their education at a lycée d'enseignement général et technologique (LEGT).
- Duration: 3 years.
- Content: general education subjects. In the 1st year, all pupils follow the same subjects. From the 2nd year onwards, pupils choose some electives as well:
- As of 2021, pupils have to choose 2 subjects to specialise in (enseignements de specialité).
- Before 2021, pupils followed subjects from a subject cluster. They had to choose 1 of the following 3 subject clusters: economy and social (économique et social, ES), literary (littéraire, L) or scientific (scientifique, S). Pupils chose a specialisation within the subject cluster.
- Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
- Diploma: Diplôme du baccalauréat général.
We compare a Diplôme du baccalauréat général to a diploma.
Pre-university education (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs, VWO). A VWO diploma is awarded upon successful completion of a 6-year programme of pre-university education. VWO is the highest level of general secondary education available in the Netherlands.
Diplôme du baccalauréat technologique
Pupils who choose the technical direction in upper secondary education (la voie technologique) conclude it with exams for a Diplôme du baccalauréat technologique. They follow their education at a lycée d'enseignement général et technologique (LEGT).
- Duration: 3 years.
- Content: a combination of general and technical/vocational education subjects. In some cases, the emphasis is on general education subjects. In other cases, the emphasis is on technical/vocational subjects. The technical/vocational subjects are part of a subject cluster that pupils have to choose, such as:
- sciences et technologies de laboratoire, STL (laboratory science and engineering);
- sciences et technologies du management et gestion, STMG (industrial engineering and management).
- Function of the diploma: access to higher education, in particular science and engineering programmes.
- Diploma: Diplôme du baccalauréat technologique.
We usually compare a Diplôme du baccalauréat technologique to a VWO diploma, or sometimes to a diploma. This depends on the content of the study programme.
Senior general secondary education (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs, HAVO). A HAVO diploma is awarded upon successful completion of a 5-year programme of general secondary education.
Dutch or English in the curriculum
French students can follow Dutch or English (or another language) in their curriculum in 2 ways:
- via the option internationale du baccalauréat (OIB); or
- via the section européennes ou de langues orientales.
Option internationale du baccalauréat (OIB)
Diplôme du baccalauréat général or Diplôme du baccalauréat technologique students can add the OIB to their curriculum. This means that students take a number of subjects in another language. The content of these subjects is about the country of this language as well. These subjects are also more extensive than comparable courses in the standard French curriculum; students spend more hours studying. For the OIB, students can choose Dutch or English. They achieve a relatively high language level with the OIB.
The OIB has been renamed this year. It is now called baccalauréat Francais Internationale (BFI).
Section européennes ou de langues orientales
Instead of the OIB, students can choose a section européennes ou de langues orientales. They take subjects in another language here as well, but the subjects are not more extensive than in the standard French curriculum. Also, there is no section for Dutch, but there is a section for English. A section is possible for the Diplôme du baccalauréat général, the Diplôme du baccalauréat technologique and the Diplôme du baccalauréat professionnel. Students achieve a relatively good language level with a section.