10 Fun Facts about French Schools

French schools, known for their emphasis on academic excellence and a structured educational system, form a crucial component of the country’s cultural and intellectual heritage. The education system in France is divided into several stages, starting with école maternelle (preschool) and progressing through école élémentaire (elementary school), collège (middle school), and lycée (high school). The curriculum is carefully designed to provide a comprehensive education that includes not only academic subjects but also a focus on arts, sports, and civic education.

One distinctive feature of French schools is the importance placed on language education. French is, of course, a central subject, and students also study a second language, usually English, from a young age. The goal is to foster linguistic proficiency and prepare students for a globalized world. Additionally, the baccalauréat, commonly known as the bac, is a significant milestone for high school students in France. This comprehensive examination, taken at the end of lycée, determines eligibility for university admission and is a rite of passage for many French students.

The grand écoles, a group of prestigious higher education institutions in France, are renowned for producing some of the country’s top leaders, intellectuals, and professionals. Admission to these institutions is highly competitive and often requires rigorous examinations. The French education system, with its blend of tradition and innovation, continues to be a cornerstone of the nation’s commitment to nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped for success in various fields.

Université Paris-Saclay
Université Paris-Saclay

Do you want to know more about French schools? Let’s take a look at these 10 fun facts about French schools.

  1. Uniformity in Uniforms: While school uniforms are not mandatory in most French public schools, they are commonly worn in private institutions. The typical French school uniform often includes a white shirt, dark pants or skirt, and a blazer.
  2. Long Lunch Breaks: French schools prioritize a leisurely lunch break, often lasting up to two hours. Students and teachers alike use this time to enjoy a wholesome, multi-course meal, reinforcing the French appreciation for good food and communal dining.
  3. No School on Wednesdays: In many primary schools in France, Wednesdays are a day off. This mid-week break allows students to engage in extracurricular activities, sports, or cultural pursuits. It’s also a time for families to spend quality time together.
  4. Unique Grading System: The French grading system uses a scale of 0 to 20, with 20 being the highest. While a perfect score is rare, a grade of 20 is considered achievable with exceptional performance. Grades below 10 are generally considered failing.
  5. No Grade Repetition in Early Years: In primary school, students are generally not held back a grade. The French education system focuses on progression and support for students rather than grade repetition in the early years.
  6. Summer Vacation Tradition: The long summer vacation in France is a cherished tradition. Students enjoy a break of about eight to ten weeks during July and August, allowing families to take extended holidays and recharge before the start of the new school year.
  7. Le Cartable Connecté: The “connected schoolbag” initiative in some French schools incorporates technology into education. Students may receive tablets or laptops to enhance their learning experience and adapt to the digital age.
  8. Punctuality Matters: Punctuality is highly valued in French schools. Students are expected to arrive on time, and lateness may be noted in official records. This emphasis on punctuality reflects the importance of discipline in the French education system.
  9. La Rentrée: “La rentrée” refers to the back-to-school period in September when students return to school after the summer break. It’s a significant cultural moment, marked by the purchase of new school supplies and the anticipation of a fresh academic year.
  10. Emphasis on Civics: Civic education is a key component of the French curriculum. Students learn about the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, reflecting the values at the core of the French Republic. This emphasis on civic education aims to instill a sense of citizenship and responsibility in students.

In the vibrant tapestry of French education, schools play a pivotal role in shaping not just academic minds but well-rounded individuals with a profound appreciation for culture, discipline, and community. From the emphasis on leisurely lunches to the unique grading system, French schools weave tradition and innovation into the educational fabric. The commitment to language proficiency, the celebration of la rentrée, and the focus on civic education all contribute to a distinctive educational experience. As students embark on their academic journey from école maternelle to lycée, French schools foster an environment where the pursuit of knowledge is intertwined with the joy of learning, creating a foundation for a society that values intellect, diversity, and the pursuit of excellence. Vive l’éducation!