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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 31 January 2024
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  1. Main trends in young people's participation in education and training
  2. Organisation of the education and training system
  3. Main concepts

Main trends in young people's participation in education and training


Recent developments and challenges


The impact of the health crisis on pupils and students

The Covid-19 crisis had a significant impact on learning among children and young people by profoundly changing learning practices and access to knowledge.

 In order to assess the impact of the health crisis and especially the lockdown period on learning, the Directorate of Evaluation, Forecasting and Performance Monitoring (DEPP) of the Ministry of Education, conducted a survey work that aimed at “documenting the differences observed according to the socio-demographic situations of the stakeholders, pupils and their families, and the characteristics of their schooling context”.

One of the studies focused on educational continuity during the schools’ closed period in spring 2020. The Directorate of Evaluation, Forecasting and Performance Monitoring (DEPP) interviewed a representative sample of families of secondary level pupils in May-June 2020. This survey shows that the school engagement of secondary level pupils is differentiated in particular according to their educational level.

The study highlights that :

  • “During this period, almost four in ten pupils at the secondary level reported to have devoted, on average, at least three hours a day to their school work.
  • “Girls, and pupils from the most privileged backgrounds, worked more. Besides the quantity, the nature of the work performed also differed according to the educational level.
  • “A quarter of the secondary level pupils were completely autonomous in their work and among those who were not, the majority was helped by their family (85 %)”.
  • “In the absence of autonomy, parental support with homework was more prevalent among pupils with learning difficulties (92 %) than among pupils with an excellent level (79 %), among boys (69 %) than girls (58 %), and to a lesser extent, among pupils from advantaged backgrounds (89 %) than among those from disadvantaged backgrounds (81 %)”.
  •  “Girls also better adapted than boys to the new way of working, but boys encountered fewer difficulties directly related to the accomplishment of their school work”[1]

    [1] Note d'information n° 20.42 « La crise sanitaire de 2020 et son impact sur l’éducation », 2020, direction de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la performance (DEPP)

Another work of the Directorate of evaluation, prospective and performance (DEPP) [1], published in 2022, takes into account the start of the school year 2021 while presenting the following observations:

  • At the start of the school year 2021, evaluations of students in CE1 (ISCED 1) show stability, or even a raise in their learning achievements.

  • One year after the end of their studies, the professional integration of apprentices and vocational high schoolers of a vocational training certificate (BTS) or certificate of professional competence (CAP) improved compared to January 2021, with a raise of 8 points in employment for apprentices and 13 for vocational high schoolers[2].

[1] Note d'information n° 22.01 « Repères 2021 de début de Cp et de CE1 », 2021, direction de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la performance (DEPP)

[2] Note d'information n° 23.13 « Insertion professionnelle des apprentis de niveau CAP à BTS », 2023, direction de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la performance (DEPP)


Tackling early school leaving

Tackling early school leaving is an important and recurring issue for school authorities.

The Government has made the fight against early school leaving a national priority and a European issue which is part of the “Europe 2020 Strategy” (2010-2020) that aimed to keep 18-24 years-old without a diploma or training under a 10% school dropout level. This strategy was based on a partnership policy for tackling early school leaving, involving all the stakeholders and structures mobilised for the training and integration of young people. This dynamic is pursued through new goals in training and education by 2030.

In France, in 2022, 7.6% of young people are called “early leavers” [of the education system]: they are 18 à 24 without a diploma or training.

Source: L’état de l’École 2023, n°32.

In order to tackle early school leaving, the Ministry of National Education has initiated important developments, particularly in the legislative sphere: the right to re-enter education and training for all the young people who have left the education system without a diploma or sufficient level of qualification (article L-122 of the French Education Code) and the training obligation for young people between the ages of 16 and 18 (article L-144 of the French Education Code).

 For more information on the policies against early school leaving, see 6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training )

The development of apprenticeship

Over the last decade or so, the development of apprenticeship has been a central policy for the vocational integration of young people. Apprenticeship was initially developed to allow young people with little or no qualifications to access training and give them a first professional experience, and now concerns more and more young higher education graduates. At the 31th of December 2022, there are 980,000 apprentices in France, thus 14% more than in 2021.

Source :

According to an “ Information note ” by the DEPP (statistics department of the Ministry of Education) published in 2022, apprenticeship has gone through different phases of evolution in the last fifteen years: a sustained growth between 2003 and 2007, then a stagnation until 2012, with the decrease in secondary education being compensated for by the increase in higher education.

Moreover, the proportion of girls within apprentices has raised by more than 1.5 point compared to 2021 and reached 41.9% in 2022. It varies according to the level of the diploma prepared, in connection with the training specialities. Indeed, while there is near gender parity in the services area, the production area is overwhelmingly male ”.


Key figures

  • The number of pupils with disabilities

 The number of children with disabilities attending school in mainstream education has increased from 361.200 at the start of the 2019 school year to around 409,000 in 2021, meaning a raise by 13%[1].

[1] « Repères et références statistiques 2022 », fiche 1.06 « La scolarisation des élèves en situation de handicap », 2022, direction de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la performance (DEPP)


  • The proportion of Baccalaureate holders

Since 1970, the proportion of Baccalaureate holders in a generation has gained more than 60 points. This significant increase is the result of the growth of the general branch and the significant development of the vocational branch since its first session in 1987.

The gender gap is close to 10 points in favour of girls.

In 2021, 732,800 candidates sat the Baccalaureate exams: 53.7 % in the general series, 19.8 % in the technological series, 26.5% % in the vocational branch.

 93.8 % of candidates were admitted (to the session of June 2021), i.e. 687,200 Baccalaureate candidates.


  • Mobility among pupils and students

Pupil mobility covers stays outside of France for individual or grouped pupils, for educational, professional, linguistic or cultural purposes.

The European and international openness of establishments is an educational measure implemented by the Ministry of National Education, as well as the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.

45.1% of schools have at least one foreign partner (establishment).

Germany is the first partner of French establishments: at the beginning of the 2017 school year, more than 33 % of French establishments had a German partner, followed by Spain (14 %) and Great Britain (12 %).


Incoming and outgoing student mobility

According to the national agency Campus France, there were 365,000 foreign students in France for the academic year 2020-2021 (18% more than in 2016). France is also the 5th country of origin of mobility students enrolled in higher education in the world, with 100,000 students in mobility in 2021.








Organisation of the education and training system


In France, school education is compulsory and free of charge from the age of 6 to 16. The education system is organised into 3 periods (cycles or levels):

  1.  First level (or Primary): the first level education brings together in primary schools, the pre-elementary education provided in nursery schools and elementary education in primary schools.
  2. Secondary level: four years at lower secondary school (collège) followed by 3 years at upper secondary school (lycée)
  3. Higher education. Access to higher education is determined by success in the Baccalaureate., a State examination providing a nationally recognised qualification

It is also worth mentioning pre-primary (nursery) education, which is particularly well organised and developed in France in comparison with other European countries.The nursery school is a specific institution of the French education system. It is an essential step in pupils’ educational experience. It is free and organised into three sections: youngest, mid-range and older; children are taken in from the ages of three to the age of six, subject to the number of places available.

For further information, see Eurydice 2.3. Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure


Compulsory education

Education is compulsory for all French and foreign children, from the age of 3 years to 16 completed years of age.  Compulsory education from the age of 3 years recognises the fundamental role that nursery schools play in children’s learning - including social learning.

Indeed, the nursery school (maternelle) is a specific institution of the French education system. It is an essential stage of the pupils’ school career. It is free and divided into three sections: the young, middle and older section. Children may attend nursery school from the age of three to the age of six, subject to places being available. 

Text: Education code: articles L131-1 to L131-13 


Training obligation

Since the start of the 2020 school year, compulsory education or training has been extended to the age of 18.

This concerns any minor between 16 and 18 years old:

  • who is out of the school system;
  • with or without a diploma and who is not in employment, education or training

The training obligation makes it possible to identify and integrate professionally young people at risk of social exclusion. The local missions (see Glossary) control compliance with the training obligation.

Text: Decree no. 2020-978 of 5 August 2020 on the training obligation for young people aged 16 to 18 




Main concepts


Among the concepts enabling at least partial understanding of the French education system are the notions of the republican model and priority education.

The republican school

The French education and teaching system is a “republican” (in reference to the French political system) model  based on a number of founding principles:

  • Freedom of choice
  • Free Provision
  • Neutrality
  • Secularism
  • Compulsory schooling


For further information, see Eurydice 2.1 Fundamental Principles and National Policies.


Priority education

The priority education policy is based on a map of the networks of primary and lower secondary schools.

Two types of networks have been identified: the REP+ which concern isolated neighbourhoods or areas with the highest concentration of social difficulties with a strong impact on school success and the REP, which have a greater social diversity but encounter more significant social difficulties than those of the primary and lower secondary schools located outside education priority.

All the priority education networks conceive an educational project based on the reference framework for priority education which takes into account all the factors contributing to pupils’ success. Furthermore, in order to improve learning conditions, classes of the final year of nursery school, as well as CP (1st grade) and CE1 (2nd grade) classes have been split in recent years, resulting in a reduction of class sizes.