C’est la Rentrée!
Hands up if the vocabulary and acronyms associated with the French Education System leave you standing outside the classroom door! Your neighbour’s grandson ‘va redoubler’. What a clever girl his sister must be, going to college at just 11 years old. And what on earth is BAC + 3?
Please don’t mark us on the content of this article. It would fill a very thick exercise book to explain the full system in detail, so we have put together a very basic guide to French schooling vocab and its approximate British equivalent to give you a very rough idea of how it works.
A Little Bit of History
The education system in France can actually be traced back to the Roman Empire. Much credit also later goes to Napoleon for reorganising and modernizing the structure in order to create a middle-class pot of future leaders.
However, the real founding father of modern French education has to be Jules Ferry. This French foreign minister of the 1870s is remembered for making education free, secular (laïque) and compulsory for both boys and girls from 6 to 13, and training nonreligious teachers for the classrooms.
A Little Bit of Info and Vocab
All French tests / exams are marked out of 20 not out of 100
Maternelle – Pre-school (non-compulsory)
Usually from 3 to 6 years
|3||Petite Section||Nursery Class|
|4||Moyenne Section||Reception class|
|5||Grande Section||Year 1|
Enseignement primaire – Primary education
|Ecole Primaire – Primary school (also known as “écoles élementaires”) covers the ages 6 to 11 years|
|6||CP – Cours Préparatoires||year 2|
|7||CE1 – Cours Elementaire||year 3|
|8||CE2 – Cours Elementaire 2nd year||year 4|
|9||CM1 – Cours Moyens 1st year||year 5|
|10||CM2 – Cours Moyens 2nd year||year 6|
|Collège – Secondary School / High School|
|11||Sixième (6e )||year 7|
|12||Cinquième (5e)||year 8|
|13||Quatrième (4e)||year 9|
|14||Troisième (3e)||year 10|
|Lycée – a sort of mix between Secondary school and Sixth form|
|15||Seconde (2nde)||Year 11|
|16||Première (1ère)||Year 12 – Lower Sixth|
|17||Terminale||Year 13 – Upper Sixth|
French Qualifications in Brief !
Brevet Blanc – Equivalent of Mock GCSE’s , (or O Levels if you’re a certain age!) sat by all students in ‘troisième’ just after Christmas.
Brevet (Diplôme National du Brevet (DNB) – Equivalent to GCSE’s sat at the end of the ‘troisième’. It equates roughly to 4 Grade C GCSE’s, but is taken at the age of 14 instead of 16 in the UK. To pass the Brevet a child needs to have a basic knowledge in a range of core subjects as opposed to the passing or failing of individual subjects, as is the case in the UK.
Baccalauréat or BAC (Introduced by Napoleon in 1808)
Equivalent to A Levels in the UK, there are three main types depending on academic capabilities. A student must gain an average (la moyenne) of at least 10 out of 20 across a range of core disciplines as opposed to passing individual subjects.
BAC Générale – The most academic, usually leading to higher education / university
BAC Professionnel – Vocational based, usually leading directly to apprenticeship or jobs for the lucky ones.
BAC Technologique – Similar idea to the Bac Pro but more geared to direct students into further education.
Rough French / English Equivalents:
|BTS, DUT, (HND)||BAC+2|
|Licence ( BA etc)||BAC+3|
|Master 1 (Master )||BAC+4|
|Master 2||No real equivalent|
La Rentrée – new school term
Redoubler – to repeat a year if required standard hasn’t been reached.
Bulletin – school report
Note – mark or grade
Directeur/directrice – headmaster/mistress
la dissertation – essay
doué(e) – gifted, talented
réussir/ échouer – to pass/fail (an exam)
Papa: Lucien. Où est ton bulletin scolaire?
Lucien: Ah, ça? Je l’ai prêté à Alex pour qu’il fasse peur a son père !
(preter – to lend pour qu’il fasse peur – so he can frighten)