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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

On this page
  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

Combating early school leaving and academic inequalities is one of the public authorities’ major challenges. In 2014, the Government launched a “everyone mobilised against school dropout” (“tous mobilisés contre le décrochage scolaire”) national strategy ( See  6.3 “Preventing early leaving from education and training”) with the aim of lowering numbers of young NEETs to below 10%. The strategy resulted in an effective reduction in young “dropouts”: at the start of the 2016/2017 school year, there were 110,000 such young people as against 136,000 five years ago.  The drop continued in 2017, with numbers of early school-leavers down to fewer than 80,000. The present government is continuing with this strategy.


The annual report on Statistical markers and references on education, training and research (Repères et références statistiques sur les enseignements, la formation et la recherche ) put out by the Ministry of National Educations’ Department for Evaluation, Forward-looking Analysis and Performance (DEPP - Direction de l’ Evaluation, de la Prospective et de la Performance), which compiles all available statistical data on the education system’s operation and results in a single volume, also provides an overview of recent developments and trends in the education system.


Key figures

  • Numbers of students

According to the 2019 report on  Statistical markers and references on education, training and research, there were 2.678 700 , students registration in higher education in Metropolitan and Overseas France at the start of the 2018/2019 academic year.  



  • Results and qualifications

Lower and upper secondary education (collège and lycée) includes two annual examinations :

During the 2019 session, the success rate for the DNB was 86,5%. The success rate for the Baccalaureate 2019 stood at 88.1%, (June session).


  • Early leaving from education and training

Among the academic inequalities that still exist, there was a significant decrease in the school-dropout phenomenon in 2016.  In 2011, 140,000 young people left school with no qualifications; in 2017, the figure fell to 80,000, due to prevention policies designed to combat school dropout implemented by the Government.

According to the report Statistical markers and references on education, training and research 2018, in 2017, the rate of young people “leaving early” from the school system stood at 8.9%.




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. 1st level: five years of primary education at elementary school
  2. 2nd 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.


Reform of compulsory education.

In 2018, the President of the Republic announced his desire to “lower the compulsory education age from 6 to 3 years old as from the start of the 2019/2020 school year”. This measure, which will be the subject of legislative work over the next few months and recognises the fundamental role that nursery schools play in children’s education (social education included), is set to make a practice compulsory that is already widely developed and approved of by parents in France: 97% of 3-year-olds already go to school.




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:


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


Priority education

Priority education is intended to respond to the crucial issue of educational inequalities, which are closely linked to territorial disparities. Many rural and urban areas are prey to economic difficulties and have few educational resources (sports and cultural facilities, etc.) available for young people’s use, a situation that has a negative impact on their academic success.

So-called priority education aims to improve pedagogical and educational action in schools and institutions located in areas that suffer the greatest social difficulties, with a view to reducing the impact of inequalities on pupils’ success.