The World of French Schools

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From the moment we are born we start to learn.

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In the world of French school-life, this feels like the week we are in ‘no-man’s land’. School doesn’t officially end until next Friday, 7th July, and yet this week I have had two teenagers fast asleep until mid-morning as they enjoy well earned lie-ins, a 12 year-old slumbering on the sofa in the shade on the terrace while munching a croissant and enjoying the beginning of her holidays, and poor Gigi still getting up early and attending school as normal. A bit of a mixed bag, really.

You may ask ‘why’? Because it all centres around exams – not just regular mid-term and end of year tests to evaluate how the student is doing, but also the two most crucial exams in any French student’s life before university or any other form of higher education beckons. These delightful stumbling blocks in our children’ lives are of course Le Brevet and Le Bac (the latter short for Baccalauréat,) and our snoring teenagers are technically still ‘at school’ – they’re just home for revision. It’s only Hetty who is able to fully relax, supine in the sun and safe in the knowledge her summer holidays have truly begun.

Even across the Channel in England, Izzi is finally able to unwind. She has officially finished three years at university and is graduating with a FIRST! To say we are proud parents would be an understatement, along with the parties and the fun, which go hand in hand with Uni life, I know she has put in thousands of hours of hard work.11692750_10204166634555435_1892507271199699898_n

We have lived in three different continents with school-aged children and I think I can honestly say we have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of different educational systems in varying countries around the world. The English do things one way, the Americans another, the Kiwis have their own methods and the French are different yet again. Of course there are similarities in all if one looks carefully into each system; education is education after all, and in each country we have lived in we can actually see where one has perhaps adopted something from another. Humans have been learning for millennia,

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adding new technology to ancient traditions.

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The French school system is revered by many and it is actually very good, even if it is also a little old fashioned in some ways too, there is a very strong emphasis on learning rote fashion and there is not a lot of room for thinking outside the box. Ask any of our children and they will tell you the basis of the system here is to be taught something in class, write it down, learn it at home, be tested on it and then move on to the next unit. As one progresses through the educational system and gets older this does however get much better and far more discussion starts to take place in class, especially once one enters Lycée.

In case you’re not familiar with the system here, let me explain it very briefly; most French children start school in the École Maternelle, the equivalent of nursery or kindergarten. They are typically aged 3 to 6, although school at this age is not obligatory. It only becomes compulsory once the child reaches the age of 6 and starts in the École Primaire, the primary school. There are five years of primary school and during the child’s 11th year they usually begin at Collège, the equivalent of middle School. There are four years of Collège starting with the year 6eme, Sixième and they progress backwards in name to the final year which is 3eme, or Troisième. School in France is compulsory until the age of 16, although the majority of students continue to Lycée, high school, starting in Seconde, followed by Première and finally Terminale for the last three years of their traditional school life.

It always makes me smile how the French do things in reverse when it comes to numbers, starting at the highest and ending at the lowest, in complete contrast to anywhere else we have ever lived. Incidentally, the points system for traffic offences on driving licences here is also the same. One automatically commences with 12 points, then points are deducted for speeding or other offences on a descending scale;  so if you start heading towards 3, 2 or 1 you are in trouble!!

But back to school; at the end of Troisième, the last year of Collège, children take their Brevet, and here there is some similarity to GSCE’s in the UK. Jack, our son, is currently the one studying for these exams. Whether one has a week off for revision or whether the courses continue right up until the very last day seems to vary according to individual schools. Our children are lucky; they finish an entire week in advance and then have seven days at home for revision; mandatory lie-ins would seem to be part of the fun, but they are in fact absolutely essential for allowing the brain to have sufficient hours of sleep to study at an acceptable level. Windows are opened during the day, snacks and drinks lined up, and the entire studying environment becomes one of relaxed concentration – or at least I think that is what the teachers hope for!

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Jack’s Brevet consists of four exams taken today and tomorrow at the same time throughout France. The only exams taken are French, History/Geography/Civics, Maths and Physics/Biology. Each year two subjects are picked randomly out of physics, technology and biology for the exams, so technology this year was not chosen. There are no exams in any foreign languages, music or art. Part of the marks are taken from the year’s coursework and there is one overall grade.

After taking the Brevet a pupil moves onto Lycée, and here things get a little more complicated! The whole purpose of these final three years at school is geared towards obtaining Le Bac and there are many choices.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of Lycée, each having a slightly different purpose, and each leading to different qualifications. Those planning on going to university usually attend a general or technological Lycée, whilst the professional Lycée (or Lycée pro as it is commonly known) is for those intending to go straight into employment, usually in a manual or clerical job; these students work towards taking and passing Le Bac pro.

From experience I can only talk about the Lycée General, because this is the direction Millie is taking. She is finishing her penultimate year of school, and next year she will be in Terminale and taking her final exams! There are generally four types of Bac a student can take, depending on what they want to do with their lives. For example, someone wanting to be a vet or a doctor (or have anything to do with science) would take the Bac S. This and the Bac ES, which covers science and economics, are the most popular choices at Millie’s school. But there is also the Bac L, Millie’s choice, which is literature, and there’s the Bac STMG, based mainly on economics but with a distinct commercial focus on marketing.

Students continue with all of their previous subjects in the first year of Lycée. During this year there will be much discussion with teachers as to which Bac is suitable and which path a student should follow. In Première, the second year of Lycée, several subjects will be dropped with French, History/Geography, English, a second foreign language, sports and one science being the only compulsory classes (again this varies slightly by region). In the final year Philosophy is compulsory!

For some reason that I have yet to fathom out, pupils take their French Bac at the end of Première while those taking the Bac L, like Millie, also take their Science too –  not at the end of the final year of Lycée. As a result, we find ourselves with a daughter studying and taking the first part of her Bac right now! Again, the exams are sat at the same hour on the same day throughout the country.

Millie’s French Bac exam is split into two parts; the written exam was two weeks ago, and while her Science exam was last week, tomorrow is the second French part – the oral exam. Millie officially finished going into school on the 9th June and has been at home ever since, enjoying fabulous hot weather while revising. But this week the heatwave came to an abrupt end, the rain came down and I cannot deny it is extremely welcome and an immense relief to all,

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it is perhaps also a little more conducive to exam preparation and studying, the temptation for swimming and summer frolics has been temporarily removed and it’s easier to hunker down inside with some books.

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Of course there has also been some relaxation for nearly three weeks, much to the chagrin of Gigi. She fails to notice Millie’s late nights with books open and intent learning, and instead just sees her older sister doing the odd tennis tournament, swimming, lounging around and generally having high jinks – I think she may be just a tad jealous!

It seems Gigi has also already conveniently forgotten that just last month she spent 8 days at sailing-school – another part of the school curriculum that is done somewhat differently here! The primary school children, at least in our village, don’t have many field trips throughout the year – just a couple of days if they are lucky. However for the last two years of Primary school life our village, the school sends the children on a sailing course. I daresay if we were in the mountains instead close to the coast there would be ski-school during the winter, but here with saltwater a stone’s throw away it is the école de voile, sailing-school, which gets the attention. It’s a week and a half on the water; last year they started in Optimists and this year they progressed to Hobie Catamarans, three to a boat.

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So when some say French schooling is boring I remind them of the positive side to life in the French educational system! Learning ‘by rote’ or not, school was not half as much fun when I was a child! And even when we are no longer at school ourselves, and instead helping the next generation, we continue to learn. Everyday I learn something new from our children; there are many things they learn at school that I did not. Or perhaps I will learn something new from the news, something from the internet, it might be something technical or something incredibly simple, like the name of a flower.

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And just as the trees have stood for centuries,

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the rain falls, the mist descends

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or the sun shines, I  hope I will always be learning.

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117 thoughts on “The World of French Schools

    • Well then yours were really lucky, they had the best of both worlds! Ours have an entire week off school for sailing, it’s rather like an extra week of holiday, of course so long as the child likes sailing, if not, then it is not a good week at all! xx

  • The French system seems so complicated to most Americans, yet I actually feel that it is one of the best. I would, however, be shaking in my shoes if I had to take le bac!

    • It seems complicated until you get used to it and then like everything in life, it is the norm and we all just go with the flow. I know I find the College/universtiy system in the states terribly confusing with all the credits and the fact that normal subjects still have to be taken as well, something that doesn’t happen here or in the UK at all. Each to their own I guess and there are certainly brilliant people who come out of every single educational system around the world. xx

    • Thanks Nadia, we have been learning as we go along, it’s the first time we have had anyone taking the bac, and there was a lot to understand and a lot of choices to be made, but I think we have a pretty good understanding now, we just have Terminal to go and then we will have had at least one child in every single year of French schooling, over the years!! The system works well though and Millie has found that she has really enjoyed premiere, the best school year of her life, she has enjoyed the slightly less formal approach and more discussion and being treated like an adult! xx

  • I have learnt a lot this morning, I wish they did exams like this here, there is so much talk about them being bad. It I think they are a very necessary part of education, some things should never change.

    • I think exams are necessary too, it is vital that students do have to study and retain the knowledge they have learnt and be capable of writing it down. I cannot think of a better way to test this than with exams. xx

  • Thanks for this, so informative and so well written. Good luck to Jack and Millie, i am sure they will do well.

  • Well done to Izzi, wishing you huge success in your future career, i am sure you will go very far and you deserve it all.

    • I will pass this on to her and I am sure she will say a very huge thank you. The world is now her oyster, so to speak, oh to be 21 again with everything to gain and nothing to lose! xx

  • Great post! I was lucky enough to teach in a Collège for a year. I exchanged my London teaching post with a French teacher. I probably got the better end of the deal! I think some of my students, in France, found my teaching methods very different (!) but they were also very appreciative. I had the most wonderful year which I remember with much fondness.

    • How fabulous, I can imagine that they found your teaching quite different, as I said, it really is quite old fashioned here. However, Millie has loved this year in Premiere so much, she has found that the classes are finally far less rigid and more open to discussion. Having said that all of our children genuinely love school here which in itself speaks volumes. Where did you teach in college for a year here? Paris or out in the country? xx

  • The differences between schooling across the world are fascinating. Then again, just here in the States, depending on where you are or what school you attend, you can have entirely different experiences and entirely different types of schooling.

    • I can quite imagine that, you live in an enormous and very varied country. I was just the other day listening to someone telling me all about the education system in China, now that is again completely different! But every system produces some brilliant young students and I think each to their own. xx

  • Oh! Heartiest congratulations to Izzy! How marvelous!! I always tell ours that high achievement brings lots of options and options make for a designed life rather than one where chance buffets one about like in a pinball machine. So happy for all of you that summer in around the corner.

    • I will pass on your congratulations and thanks so much. She now has a world of opportunity before her and we are so proud of her and happy for her. Summer is here, can’t wait for the holidays to begin properly, my favourite two months of the year without a doubt. xx

  • I have long thought that the French have an educational system which correlates to what we know about how learning actually happens for children. While “rote learning” always sounds boring, it can actually be presented in many fun, interactive ways. Children need a solid and correct understanding of all subjects before too much time is spent on speculation. After 40 years of teaching in America in grades 6 through 12, I see this lack of a solid foundation during the elementary years as the biggest stumbling block to good thinking in later years of school and, sadly, life. Schools should produce citizens who know the basic truths in all subjects and who can think rationally. Without that, it’s hard to sustain a democracy. Thank you for your wonderful explanation of the details of the French system.

    • Fascinating reading your comment today, and I know you are so right, a solid basis is the best way to start and I have never actually thought of it like this before. Millie who is now 17 and in her penultimate year has had the best year at school of her life, she has finally found the system less rigid and more open to discussion, perhaps this is exactly as you explain, by this age they have learnt the basics, they have a solid understanding of the fundamentals and now they are ready to debate and discuss these. Thanks for your insight, much appreciated. xx

  • Congratulations to Izzi on getting a First, how fantastic! Has she decided on her next step yet?
    I did have to laugh when you said students have to do compulsory Philosophy, now that is very French, but I think it’s a great idea. I have friends in Paris whose children will be starting school in September, it will be interesting to hear of their experiences. xx

    • I will pass on your congrats to Izzi and thank you so much, initially she wanted to go straight on to do a Masters, but after some consideration she has decided she would like to work in London for a few years and then consider doing her Masters in her late 20’s. It will be interesting to see how Millie enjoys Philosophy, I have a feeling it will be right up her street! xx

  • What an interesting subject. To me it seems the students finish school with more of an education than most countries. Which is the purpose of school….and maybe more prepared for real life. Congratulations to Izzi for a job well done.

    Ali

    • I think the system is very similar in many ways to that in the UK, although whereas in the UK many students take just three or perhaps four A levels for their final two years, here more subjects are taken and are compulsory. I think Millie will love Philosophy next year! xx

  • What a beautiful bouquet you made! July 7 is very late to end the school year so the break will be well deserved. Best of luck to all your budding Baccalaurate and Brevet holders! (P.S. Mine both took ‘S’ despite my lobbying for L!)

    • I know, I have never known school to end so late, poor Gigi, she is not best amused, but has had quite a lot of days off for tennis tournaments so she can’t complain too much! Millie decided on the L as she loves reading and she figured she could read the classics in English, she is a very fast reader in English, but a little slower in French, and then she could reread in French, it seemed like an easier option for her, as she has only been speaking French fluently for three years! S and ES are the most popular here but she has had the best time this year in Premiere, she has loved the open discussions and she has so enjoyed the English literature, being able to analyse the books in English. It did seem a natural choice though as she is passionate about languages and reading and although she loves Science she detested maths!! xx

      • Ha, ha…a girl after my own heart! Interesting though, as it goes against the current in France where they push all the best students into ‘S’ streams. A very good blog I recently read casts light on all on this, if you’re interested I can share the link. (Wish I’d known then what I do now, would have saved a lot of useless worrying.) 😉

      • Yes, she is a passionate bookworm! But, here we have been most impressed, the teachers really have listened and advised and suggested and taken plenty of time to communicate all their thoughts. We started Lycée as complete newbies, not knowing what to expect and yet it really has been explained well and we feel that we have all, together, made educated decisions based on their advice. I would love to read more though so please do let me know have the link, we do after all still have three more to go through the whole bag process! xx

  • This is fascinating. We could certainly learn from the French here in the U.S. Wouldn’t it be nice if all children could have a taste of education in a different country. I so enjoy your posts about life in the French countryside. It is on my bucket list when we can travel again!

    • And when you do travel again, one long stop has to be here, it would be so much fun! I think it is fascinating seeing the different styles of education around the world, our children are lucky to have experienced several and it certainly means they are able to appreciate the best parts and accept the boring bits!! xx

  • With your ‘interesting’ school process, the only missing seems to be Quidditch! LOL The kids are busy, summer is basking in all its glory even on those misty days. You have certainly chosen a beautiful way of life. Color me jealous.

    • Ha ha, wouldn’t they love it if Quidditch was real, just imagine the fun! I can’t wait for the summer holidays to begin, when all the children have finished school, these are my favourite two months of the year, alas poor Gigi has another week to go and both Millie and Jack have exams tomorrow, so this evening they are of course really studying, no slacking the night before!!! xx

      • Thanks Monika, it was not without the help of you and so many other people who helped her with her playground project and various other things. She is so passionate about it all that it has been fun to watch her really enjoying her time, she says Univeristy years have been the best ever and she will be so sad to leave! Xx

  • First of all, congratulations to Izzi (and you two as well.) I hope there’s not a quiz on the French school system as, although I read and digested, I in now way have it all down now. 🙂 It was very interesting to read about the entire system, though, so thanks for that. So glad to read that the heat wave broke. It’s hot and humid here and looks to be that way for the next ten days or so. We’ll see how that goes.

    janet

    • I wouldn’t worry Janet, it took me ages to fully comprehend it all, we have been learning as we go along and I have to be honest and say I still cannot fully understand the US college/university system with credits and regular subjects having to be studied still! We miss the evenings outside and beautiful sun but I am also so happy to see the rain, you know how much we desperately needed it and no human or plant can be anything but pleased, next week the sun is due to return! Hope it doesn’t get too humid with you, that is always so difficult to cope with. xx

      • Rain is certainly necessary…if it would just come at night! 🙂 We got a good bit of rain today and may be more, but that means I don’t have to water my few flowers and veggies. It was exciting today to see a goldfinch eating seeds from one of the dead flower heads in the garden. I planted a number of perennials that are bird/butterfly/bee-friendly, so I’m glad to see they work. 🙂

        Glad there’s no quiz, as I always wanted to do well on them and I don’t feel like studying right now. 🙂 Enjoy the rain and then the sun.

      • Now that would be just too perfect, alas at the moment we are getting it day and night. The strangest of weather, high winds one minute then blue sky and then a sudden downpour of tropical proportions. The garden is covered in leaves it looks like autumn! I have enjoyed a few days off from watering too, but I know by the weekend I will be enjoying the warmth once more, it is summer after all and much though we need the rain, we also like good long hot summer days! So happy you have goldfinch in your garden, we had a pair here last year. We seem to have a vast amount of butterflies this year, lots of different species, I have been watching them in between showers! No quiz, not today at least!!! xx

  • Thanks, very nice. Sometimes I get a bit jealous of your life over there based on the tone of your postings (yes, I admit, I am sorry, wish you the best and all your children from the bottom of my heart!)
    This was very informative and I will definitely pass on the info because sometimes people ask me about this (I am a teacher of French and I think without being a native or having gone through the system it is challenging to keep track of it). The details of the school system are really nicely outlined! Merci 🙂

    • Never be sorry! I can assure you though that the normal things still go on, jobs, money, errands, never having enough time! But it is a fabulous life, it makes the dull and boring things seem somehow that little bit better and I know we are very lucky, but it can be very hard work at times, it’s not as easy as it looks! I hope this helps with your understanding of the French system and with your students, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask and I will do my best to answer them! xx

  • Very informative information. I am curious however, about teacher pay there. Can you give us examples of that and how long a school year is? July 7th seems a late end of school but when do they start? In the states, some districts have year round schooling, meaning three weeks of school and a week off. Just curious about the pay scale.
    Great article!

    • Hi Donna, I don’t know too much about teachers salaries, but you might find this article interesting.
      https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/sep/05/how-the-job-of-a-teacher-compares-around-the-world
      Our school year is certainly different to that in the States and is very similar to that of the UK, although actually in France the children do get longer holidays than in the UK who don’t finish school until mid July! Here the primary school finishes on 7th July, the past couple of years it has been a few days earlier. The rest of the school system finishes at the end of June once the bad and brevet are over. Except those lucky enough not to be taking exams, they finished at the end of last week! School resumes this year on the 4th September for all children of all ages. However, don’t forget that although their summer holidays are shorter, two months, they also have far more holidays throughout the year, 2 weeks at the end of October, two weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks in February, 2 weeks in the spring and numerous public holidays in May!!! xx

  • It seems like such a confusing system because of the backwards numbers and all the names but it does actually make a lot of sense. Thank you for giving us an education this morning Susan!

    • Thanks so much Helen, I think you are right, it is the backwards counting and also as you say the names, if it was just 1st grade through to 12th it would be so much easier! But then I grew up with class names, Lower third, upper fourth etc. and so that part is easy, but at least they did go forwards not backwards! xx

  • Congrats to all your kids, especially Izzi, but to the others too for doing so well in a foreign language, can’t always be easy for them.

    • I will tell them all and I am sure they all say a huge thank you. I am so proud of them, it is fabulous to think they are all bilingual, that in itself is a great achievement in my humble opinion! Xx

  • Well written and well researched. I grew up in France and left for Australia when I was 19. School was rigid, very different to the education my own children, aged 15, 16 and 18 are now experiencing here in Sydney. Which is better? I think each has its own merits!

    • I totally agree with you, I think everywhere has it’s own merits, I can see good things in the education in all the countries our children have lived in, they are just different, after all countries all over the world have fantastic students and great results. I think school really is what you make of it. Xx

  • Perfectly done, Susan. You’ve cleared up a few questions i have always had about the schooling system. It makes a great deal more sense now. Thank you. Mrs C says hello as always!

    • Hi to both of you, the French school system is really very similar to the English one with the exception that more subjects are taken for the Bac than in A levels. Otherwise it seems to follow much the same lines. Xx

    • I have heard fantastic things about Swedish schools, our neighbour did a Swedish exchange visit this winter and spent a week there and then her Swedish correspondent came here, we got to meet her several times and talk about the Swedish system. Xx

  • How interesting. I love learning how other countries do their schooling. By the way here in Australia we also get 12 points on our drivers license and as we get tickets – speeding etc the points come down

    • Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it. I had no idea that Australia counted their points backwards too, I actually just assumed that it would have followed the British system, which just goes to prove that one should never assume things! Have a great weekend xx

  • Izzy: huge congratulations on your FIRST !! Terrific and why am I not surprised 🙂 ? Be happy – make the most of it , , as if you would not! Jack: am holding fingers and toes crossed for your exams! Susan: it will take me a few hours to get your hugely informative post into my memory cells. Australia: optional kindy’daycare, 6 years of ‘Primary’, 6 years of ‘High’ up to university matriculation or 4 for a ‘School Certificate’ if one is not academically inclined. NO American college system at all. Huge arguments at the moment re the importance of ‘core subjects’ [methinks what you call ‘rote learning’ ] . . . looking at the relative ‘illiteracy’ of many of the young here I could not agree more!! [On less important grounds: my Dad had always wanted to go to Sorbonne – it did not happen . , , so he had a flightpath for me re the I’national School near Lausanne {oh friends’ kids did go and later mine were ‘jealous’; !] . . . . to then approach the French system . . . . .] . . . . way back, but perchance not so wrong . . . ?

    • Thanks so much, I have passed this on to Izzi and she says a huge thank you too! Fingers crossed for Jack and Millie who are both in exams as I type this! Rote learning is learning things off by heart, like learning a poem through repetition. Or times tables, we used to go round and round the class saying them out loud, did you do that chanting times tables? Now the argument about dropping core subjects is one that has been around for a while here too. I am always surprised that here maths can be dropped in the last two years but some form of Science has to be continued and two foreign languages, of which one must be English. The English I can certainly understand, but the second foreign language over maths, the jury is out on that one! However, in general I think the French system is excellent, I am sure there is good and bad everywhere, we just have to focus on all that is good! Xx

  • What an interesting post! Although I have spent a lot of time in France and even spent a summer at school I was not well versed on the schooling.

    Good luck to your kids on their exams! Happy Summer.

    • Thanks Elizabeth, what fun that you got to spend a summer at school here, the very best way to learn the language for sure. The system seems complicated but I think as Helen so rightly pointed out in an earlier comment it seems so much more so because of the names of the grades and the fact they go in reverse! Hope you too are having a lovely start to the summer xx

  • Congratulations Izzi! That’s amazing. So the brevet is the equivalent of GCSEs? And sort of like FCAT in Florida? It’s amazing how all the systems are so different

    • Thanks Lily, I will pass this on to Izzi and I know she will say a huge thank you too. The brevet is most like GSCE’s. From what I remember from the FCAT it is not that similar, that was more like our regular exams that we have at twice a year for everyone from age 13 upwards. Hope the weather hasn’t been too hideous with you, I heard that Southern England has had a really horrid week! Xx

      • It’s finally brightening up a little here! Starting to look forward to our first strawberries and cream and a glass of Pimms!

      • Now you’re talking! There is nothing quite like a cold jug of Pimms on a hot summer’s day. Izzi brought some over from the UK last summer as we cannot get it here and it is such an English tradition, we loved introducing French friends to it, who adored it! Hope the sun shines for the weekend, it has been quite horrid here for the past three days, but we needed the rain so badly so for once we cannot complain! Have a great weekend xx

  • I think I’m joining in here just at the right time for Pimms. As it should be really, though today it is still raining here in London, on and off.

    Thank you for the education, Susan, I always wondered how it all worked over there. Seems like an eminently sensible system to me, hand in hand with the division of holiday time during skiing season!

    • Holiday time during the ski season is vital and so civilised! Still raining here too, although more on than off, heavy downpours for three and a half days now, but apparently it will be good for the weekend and then on into July and as we needed the rain we can’t complain! But a Pimms at the weekend sounds like a fabulous idea! xx

    • Good question Jacqueline and one that no one is quite sure about! It does appear that schools are getting more lenient. There was a time when it was very common for children to redouble a year if they didn’t pass, but now that is not as common as it was. Technically one can fail the brevet and still move on to Lycée, forms go back and forth throughout the end of this last college school year and one knows well in advance if you child is approved to move on to Lycée, so based on that fact if they have done well all year and somehow mess up and fail their Brevet they will go forward. Like many things it is all open to discussion if it is a borderline case and there are no hard and fast rules! xx

    • Hello Jacqueline! The ” Brevet des Collèges” is not at all necessary to go on High-school ( Lycée ). It is more like a work out to train the pupils in exams. It is a reward and a great achievement for those who succeed this exam at the end of College years. The decision for the passage in High school is made along the year’ s grades before the exam session. Bon week-end à vous.

      • Thank you so much for giving the official French version on this Philippe. I asked Millie before she went off partying and she confirmed what I understood. But as you say, it is still a serious exam and the children do take it very seriously which is excellent. Now onwards to Lycee for Jack! Xx

  • Many congratulations to Izzi on her marvelous result … a result that will carry her wherever she chooses to go next on life’s great adventure. As usual I loved reading your post and I want to end just by wishing Jack and Millie great success in their own exams! And to all of you, a collective sigh of relief when they are done and some well-earned fun to follow xx

    • Thanks so much, I will pass that on, she is so happy. Millie has now finished this year, this morning went well, she had to learn 35 texts and just one was chosen, and lucky for Millie they chose one of her top five to test her on, a 16th century piece of literature. Millie always gets lucky with this sort of thing! Jack is still slogging away this afternoon, another hour or so to go! Then they are all off to parties so we shan’t see either of them until tomorrow at some stage! Gigi has her school fete this evening and she and two others are introducing and narrating, so she is very excited and nervous, Roddy is in the UK for Izzi’s graduation, impossible for me to go with so many exams here, so it is a big day for our family today!!!xx

      • Well done Millie … a bit of luck goes a long way! I’m sure Jack is equally relieved to be finished. I am off to my daughter’s Graduation on 11th July, taking my mother who is bursting with pride and convinced that her success is entirely due to the fact that she started her dissertation at Granny’s house – she makes me hoot … always has found a way to take credit for everyone’s success … xx Enjoy the celebrations all round! X

      • Millie is always lucky, hope I haven’t just jinxed that! It drives Izzi mad!!! How lucky that you are able to take your Mother along too, great that it’s all down to her, My mother and Roddy’s mother, both sadly no longer with us, would both have been exactly the same, of course it’s all in the genes and nothing to do with hard work!!! Gosh they made me laugh so much, both of them and how I miss their really good old fashioned views! Enjoy your celebrations, I am so sorry I wasn’t there, but at least they had a live stream and I was able to watch the entire thing exactly as if I was there, and Skype with Iz for an hour before whilst we discussed her makeup, too much or not enough, necklace or no necklace, just as if I was there, thank god for modern technology! Xx

      • I treasure my mother …. that generation is priceless! Thank heavens for Skype … I know just how you feel! Xx

      • Thanks so so much, do cherish her, because for me it is so sad not to be able to share the little things with her and also sad for the children as I know she would have been so interested in all they are doing now. Xxx

  • I had no idea the school system was so different, isn’t it very stressful for the kids to have the pressure of these exams or do they just cope knowing they are all in it together?

    • Yes it can be stressful but I don’t think it does anyone any harm to have to study and take and hopefully pass exams, it is all part of the educational process. They all are very relieved today now exams are over of course, but then that’s an excuse for a good party, it’s all part of the system, and it is a system that seems to work rather well! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  • De nouveau un très intéressant sujet de discussion pour tous vos followers du monde entier. Il semble que vos enfants sont parfaitement intégrés aux subtilités de l’ école en France. Leur bilinguisme anglais-français sera un gros avantage durant leur scolarité, surtout à la Faculté ( Université ). Je tiens à féliciter Izzi pour son grand succès ! Première de sa promotion est une énorme plus-value sur son Curriculum Vitae ! Quelle satisfaction pour Izzi et quelle fierté pour son papa et sa maman comme on peut l’ imaginer !!! Bon courage à Jack pour son brevet des Collèges et à Millie pour son Baccalauréat de Français ! Comme on dit en France : MERDE à tous les 2 ( i.e. Bonne chance…).La Philosophie obligatoire en Terminale est une étape fondamentale pour que l’ écolier devienne aussi un citoyen ouvert au monde à l’ âge adulte. Le système scolaire français est loin d’ être parfait mais l’ enseignement philosophique est fondamental pour tous les lycéens à l’ aube de leur majorité et du droit de vote.// Another great topic of discussion about school education for all your followers in the world. It seems that your children are perfectly integrated into the subtleties of french school. Their english-french bilingualism will be a great advantage durint schooling especially in University. I would like to congratulate Izzi for her big success in exams! Top of her class will be a huge gain on her Curriculum Vitae for sure! What a satisfaction for Izzi and what pride for her daddy and her mummy as we can very well imagine!!! Courage for Jack with “Brevet des Collèges ” and for Millie with ” Baccalauréat de Français” ( first step before great final exam next year !!! Childhood memories for me…)! As we say here : MERDE to you both ( ahem…i.e SHIT or also GOOD LUCK ). On other hand compulsory Philosophy in the final year of high school is a fundamental stage so that student becomes a citizen with open mind in the grown-up age.The french school system is far from perfect but teaching Philosophy is essential for all the students in the dawn of their Majority and of voting right.

    • Thanks Philippe, yes very proud mummy and daddy! Our eldest has now officially graduated from Univeristy, quite a milestone! Mille said her French Oral was good, she is very positive and Jack feels confident. Needless to say they are both at parties this evening, celebrating the end of school for another year, just as it should be! I think the teaching of philosophy in the final year is excellent, Millie will thoroughly enjoy it too and it is important. I love how the French say Merde for good luck, we have been teaching Gigi’s tennis coach to say Break a Leg as we say in English, so we now say Merde and he says Break a Leg, it’s all very confusing to anyone observing and listening!!! Have a great weekend if only the rain would cease just for a few days, much though we need it, we are in danger of needing an ark soon!!! Xx

      • Bonjour Susan. Comme je sais votre volonté d” apprendre les détails de la vie en France, voici l’ origine historique de l’ expression ” MERDE ” pour souhaiter ” Bonne Chance ” ; Au XIXe siècle les bourgeois se déplaçaient en calèche pour aller au Théâtre ou à l’ Opéra.Les chevaux stationnaient devant la salle pendant le spectacle et, bien sûr, faisaient leurs besoins.Plus de spectateurs donc plus de chevaux et plus de crottins au sol. Il y avait donc beaucoup de merdes de cheval devant les salles de spectacle à succès ! Pour souhaiter bonne chance de réussite avant un spectacle , on disait à un acteur : ” je vous souhaite beaucoup de MERDES ! ” Au fil du temps on disait plus simplement ” MERDE” pour souhaiter ” Bonne Chance” ( NB : ne jamais dire “Bonne Chance” mais toujours ” Merde” à un acteur de Théâtre ou de Cinéma encore de nos jours ).// Hello Susan! As I know your willing to learn more details about the life in France, here is the historic origin of the expression “MERDE” for wishing “Good Luck”. In the 19th century the bourgeois moved on horse-drawn carriage to go to Theater or Opera. Horses stayed in front of the Theater during the show and, of course, relieved dungs. More spectators meant more horses staying thus more dungs on the street.So there was a lot of dungs in front of the successful show.To wish a big success before a show, say to an actor: ” I wish you a lot of SHITS! “.In time we said more simply ” SHIT” to wish ” Good Luck” ( NB: Never say “Bonne chance” but ALWAYS “SHIT” to an Theater actor or movie actor before a show! Idem to pupils before exams !!! LOL ! ). Have a good week-end in your beautiful county of Charentes-Maritmes.

      • Thanks so much Philippe, I often wondered where the expression came from as I say it or hear it, and then forget about it when I am near a computer and could look it up! I have told all the children this as none of them knew either, now we are all just a little bit wiser. Merci beaucoup et bonne dimanche!

      • In the same way, could you let me know the meaning of the typically english expression ” Break a leg ” for wishing ” Good luck “? It should be very interresting to learn its historic origin!

      • No one seems to know where the expression comes from. It is typically meant for actors and actresses before they go on stage, but is often applied to all sorts of things with the superstition that saying “good luck” to someone is actually bad luck! Xx

    • Philippe; ce qui m’étonne toujours quand je parle avec des jeunes c’est leur facilité à s’exprimer…. toutes les tournures et l’élégance (d’un hérisson…!) d’espression – c’est géniale. Malheureusement, leur ‘éduction’ sentimentale ne suit en rien leur éducation scolaire – très peu de manières, de gentilesse envers les autres, un clanisme extrême – mais j’espère que c’est que la proximité de Paris et son entourage… At least I now understand why they talk so eloquently, they all ‘do’ their philosphy course and they sure know how to apply this knowledge. And then we luckily have a young and dynamic leader which can only be a good sign for France to step out of a tired nation to become a leading nation once more 🙂

  • Fascinating post, not only do we live the beautiful French life with you we also learn about the real nitty gritty and what it is really like to live there, keep up the great posts.

    • Thanks Shari, I try to mix it all up a little because it is all part of our French life and that’s what this is all about, our experiences here. Hope you have a great weekend xx

  • I have lived here for over a decade, I was married to a Frenchman, but it didn’t last, but my love of France did so I stayed, single and happy! But until now I have never fully grasped the school system as I have no children. Now I think I am a little wiser, although I shall have to reread this a few times to take it all in! Thank you!

    • Well I am so glad you stayed, it’s a great country to live in. You never know when you might find a little knowledge about the school system useful!!! Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

    • A big thank you from Izzi. Roll on summer holidays indeed and perhaps a little sunshine now, we needed the rain, but now we have had quite enough of it, a little sunshine would be welcome once more!! Xx

  • As I sit staring at the rain, typical British summer weather I might add, I enjoyed reading about school life in France, what a wonderful life you are giving your family. Enjoy the well earned holidays. Brenda

    • Thanks Brenda, if it makes you feel any better I am sitting staring at the rain too! This morning was lovely but now there is a steady drizzle. We needed the rain, and now we have had our fair share of it and now we would welcome a little sunshine!, just like you, let’s hope we all have a great summer. Xx

  • Thank you for your great post on French Education …I now understand it…and well done to your daughter.

    • Thanks so much Denise! It has been quite a momentous week for all the children, Izzi especially, but for the others too with their exams. Roll on the holidays! Love to you both xx

  • I wondered why I hadn’t heard of you for so long and now I see it was me overlooking (I WAS very busy) this post….. Heartfet congrats to Izzy – you wonder-girl!!!!!!! 🙂 How very brilliant and wonderful, for you and your parents and family. BRAVO
    I never fully understood the English school system and I understand even less the French one; but luckily I have no children in either school system and therefore was greatly interested in just reading how things work here in F. Hope your Jack and Milly are also doing ok; having had a boy who loved going to school but not for learning…. but for seeing his friends daily, doing sports & fun and having rarely had any homework (no mummy, all done already….. what????? Na, nothing done!), I am delighted to read that your kids are somewhat keener to do well! The Swiss system is probably most confusing of all as we as a small nation have surely about 25 different schooling concepts, one for each canton. My sister in law, in her ‘former life’ a middle-school teacher, had been teaching in the Canton Vaud, coming to the Zürich region, she was not allowed to teach as this canton has another style and rules for teaching…. You can also opt out completely of state schooling as you can send your kids to ‘open’ schools such as Steiner (Waldorf), Montessori, ‘forest schools’ etc etc. I would have liked to send my son to a Steiner-School when he was 6 yrs old but he steadfastly refused. He didn’t want to be separated from his buddies…. I loved school so much that I think I must have been an extraterrestial being; I could read and read and read, sing, draw, DIY, I loved every minute of it – – – and was terribly ill for each exam. When I read about your children, I am sighing deepy and being thankful all over again that I’ll never ever ever need to pass another exam!
    We too had all the rain we needed lately and our ‘prairie’ (50 shades of brown) spruced up to some sort of green in only 2 days – well, parts of it, it still looks a sad sight but who cares! It’s nature, for heaven’s sake. Roses have come and gone and come again – it’s a wonder year for them, our summer magnolia with huge white flowers who last only 2-3 days max have been in ongoing bloom mode like never before. Life is great 🙂
    Thursday a week ago we had a small get-together I organised in 2 days for the singers of our small choral ensemble who wouldn’t be available on Saturday for the big fiesta. We were 12 from 8-12pm and on Friday I went out and bought up the shops for Saturday – then it rained and rained and rained so much that on Saturday 11h30, I cancelled it because I just couldn’t see myself with 26-30 ppl in our living/dining room – but it meant to inform everybody about the push-back to end of August – and from then on it meant also to have to get all the prepared shopping/salads/stuff to be used up by two people…. instead of those many!
    Needless to say that, apart from still soaking wet wooden tables and benches and a general feel of humidity in the air, Saturday evening was beautiful, calm and inviting!!!!! Oh ye Gods of weather & timings….
    And so I missed the appearance of your post and now I need to read those over 100 comments in great detail! I’m just glad that for me everything I learn on a daily basis I can do because I want to and not because I must – that includes cooking, gardening, reading, writing, photographing, washing/drying/ironing and the cleaning of our house etc. But I’m my own master of ceremony and what I won’t / can’t do today, I can do tomorrow or ….. never!
    Love from our paradise to yours!

    • Oh the rain, I loved it on day one, day two, I was still fine with it, day three, OK and by day four totally fed up!!! But how we needed it. Yes everything is a little greener and now the heat has returned, 36 here yesterday. So sorry you had to cancel your choral get together, but it would certainly be so much fun outdoors, fingers crossed for August. None of ours actually love school, I think Jack and Hetty like it the most, Millie has enjoyed this last year though far more than ever before and Gigi has never liked school, it gets in the way of other things in her opinion!!! The schooling system is good here and now we understand it seems very straight forward, but we are embracing something new for next year with sport etude for Gigi, and will have to see how that goes, my guess is there will be plenty of hiccups along the way!!! xx

  • It looks like a beautiful place to study. I am not convinced the French system is the best. My stepdaughter was in the system from primary school to high school. She did get a lot of holidays though!

    • I am quite sure it is not the best in the world. But I do think it is a good system, there are certainly things I would to see done differently, but on the whole we are very happy and no complaints! Plenty of holidays indeed but much longer school days to make up for it! xx

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