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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

Last update: 15 December 2021


The education and training of young people are major recurrent concerns in the eyes of the public authorities and, more generally, French society as a whole, whose expectations in this regard are many and varied, and go beyond the simple issue of education itself.

The French educational model has undergone far-reaching changes enabling it to be characterised by the ongoing spread of mass education since the 1950s, accompanied by a lengthening of the duration of schooling and a form of “democratisation” expressed by access to high levels of qualification on the part of a significant percentage of the population, the less privileged social categories in particular.

However, as several reports issued by the Ministry of National Education (including the report La massification scolaire sous la Vème République. Une mise en perspective des statistiques de l’éducation nationale (1958-2014) [Mass education in the Fifth Republic. An appraisal of national education statistics (1958-2014)] as well as international assessments (in particular PISA 2018)) show, inequality of prior learning and educational and social trajectories between schoolchildren and students are still significant and persistent, as school success is very much conditioned by the socio-economic status of the families. According to the 2018 PISA study, France is one of the OECD countries where school inequities between pupils are the most significant:  The study notes a difference of 107 points between pupils from an advantaged background and those from a disadvantaged background. This “difference is significantly greater than that observed on average” in OECD countries.

Therefore, inequity reduction and the success of all pupils including students, emerge as one of the major challenges of school and higher education. More generally, strengthening the education system is a crucial issue for the public authorities.

Indeed, the results of the 2016 PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) survey held every five years, led by the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement) which assesses the reading literacy performance of pupils at the end of their fourth year of compulsory schooling (CM1 for France) and compares education systems, have shown that the performance of French pupils has been gradually decreasing since 2001, in particular compared to that of the other European countries participating in the survey:

  • “With a score of 511 points, France is above the international average (500 points) but below the European average (540 points) and the OECD average (541 points)”.
  • “Since the 2001 PIRLS survey, overall French performance has been decreasing at each assessment. In 2016, the difference is significant and represents - 14 points over the 15-year period”.


Furthermore, the development of apprenticeship and lifelong training and its accessibility are also issues for the public authorities, particularly for the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Economic Inclusion.