6.1 General context
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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”.
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”. This strategy is 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.
In 2020, early school leavers were 80,000 in France compared to 98,000 in 2016.
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. As at 31 December 2020, apprentice training centres served 629,600 apprentices, a 31.5 % increase compared to 2019. This is a historic rise since the early 2000s.
According to an “ Information note ” by the DEEP (statistics department of the Ministry of Education) published in July 2021, 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 “share of girls in apprenticeship numbers has gained 4.1 points compared to 2019 and reached 37.1 % in 2020. 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 ”.
- 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 nearly 385.000 at the start of the 2020 school year, a 7% increase.
- 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 Campus France, France which “welcomed 229,623 students in 2018” is also the 6th country of origin of diploma mobility students in the world”. In 2018, nearly 99,448 French students went to study abroad, 10,000 more students than in the previous year (+10%).
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):
- 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.
- 2nd level: four years at lower secondary school (collège) followed by 3 years at upper secondary school (lycée)
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.