Understanding the French school system

The French Education system consists of three stages: primary education, secondary education, and higher education. The curricula at primary and secondary schools are standardised across all schools for a given grade.

Primary Education

Formal schooling in France starts as early as age three when children attend Preschool (“la Maternelle”) which is mandatory (2018), so all children must be enrolled in Preschool at the age of the three.
Primary education schooling in the French system lasts 8 years. 3 years in Preschool/Maternelle and 5 years in Elementary School and is organised over three cycles of learning. (For a soft transition between Elementary and Middle school, the first year of the middle school is included in the last cycle.)
This cycle structure enables teachers to work in teams and to benefit from a great flexibility in the implementation of the various learning stages.
All teachers are qualified from the French and/or Croatian ministry of Education.

Preschool - Cycle 1

Petite Section (PS): 3 to 4 year olds (1styear of Preschool)
Moyenne Section (MS): 4 to 5 year olds (2ndyear of Preschool)
Grande Section (GS): 5 to 6 year olds (3rdyear of Preschool)
The aim of Cycle 1 is the acquisition of first learning skills and the promotion of children’s development through a multitude of discoveries and experiences.

Elementary School - Cycle 2

Cours préparatoire (CP): 6 to 7 year olds (Year 1 of Elementary School)
Cours Élémentaire 1ère année (CE1): 7 to 8 year olds (Year 2 of Elementary School)
Cours Élémentaire 2ème année (CE2) : 8 to 9 year olds (Year 3 of Elementary School)
Cycle 2 is geared towards the acquisition of fundamental learning skills by focusing especially on reading, writing and counting skills in accordance with official programmes and through a wide variety of engaging activities.

Elementary School - Cycle 3

Cours Moyen 1ère année (CM1) : 9 to 10 year olds (Year 4 of Elementary School)
Cours Moyen 2ème année (CM2) : 10 to 11 year olds (Year 5 of Elementary School)
La classe de 6ème: Year 6 is the first year of  Middle School: the Adaptation Cycle.
Cycle 3 aims to further learning skills. Teaching focuses on reinforcing the skills children gained in Cycle 2, widening their knowledge base and help them develop the working and studying methods they will need to ensure their autonomy when they move to Secondary School.

Secondary Education

Secondary school is divided into two blocks: Middle School (“le Collège”) and High School (“le Lycée”).

Middle School "Le Collège"

Le Collège”, Middle School, for students aged 11 to 15 is organised over 4 years covering 3 cycles.
La classe de 6ème: Year 6, the Adaptation Cycle (Part of cycle 3)
Les classes de 5ème, 4ème et 3ème: Year 7 and Year 8 and Year 9 –  the  Cycle 4
The core years of Middle School are conceived in such a way as to enable cross-curricular projects and activities, widening pupils’ learning.
The year 9 is a concluding year, preparing to a National Diploma the “Diplôme National du Brevet” (DNB). Pupils are introduced to their different options in terms of further schooling.

High School "Le Lycée"

“Le Lycée” covers the final three years of secondary education.
Classe de 2nde: Year 10
This is a common year, pupils following either a general or a technological programme
Classes de 1ère et Terminale, Year 11 and Year 12
Pupils prepare for their final high school diploma, the Baccalauréat. In the general programme they can choose between three streams of specialisation: Social and Economy, Literature or Maths and Science. In 1ère they take the French Baccalauréat exam and in Terminale they take the General Baccalauréat exams.
Once they have achieved the Baccalauréat the students can continue their studies in Higher Education; at University, in a BTS (Higher Technician Certificate) or DUT (Technical University Diploma) or in the Grandes Écoles(Specialist Higher Education Training Schools).