MOVING home with an older child, secondary school age of 11 upwards, is always a worry. When it is to a country where the everyday language is not the mother tongue it can be particularly stressful for the parent and for the child.
There is also an overview of the French State Education System (.pdf) available to download.
After discussing secondary education with both French and English people, I have found that the French education system is a trifle complicated.
Some English friends have been in France about seven years now and they have three sons. The youngest is at collège, and two are in lycée.
They have found the system 'interesting'. One son didn't want friends to know he was English and it wasn't until his mother had to visit the school for a consultation they found out.
They had to find specialist lycées for their sons as one is a computer fanatic and wanted to study that with maths and science, whist the other insisted he wanted to study Chinese. They are now both doing very well at lycée and living away from home during the week.
I also asked my physiotherapist, Kinésithérapute, about his training after school.
He replied that 'he just turned up to classes that he was told to'. He holds the qualification Masseur Kinésithérapute DE and the four years of training is equivalent to a BAC+2.
To obtain the necessary diploma they have to convince the authorities they have achieved the necessary standards to carry the card and display their qualifications in their car.
I also approached my daughter's partner, who is an electrician about his training.
"I didn't want to follow my father into the bakery business but wanted to be an electrician," he said. "I had done some work experience which is common, as part of the education is school based and part on site, when following your chosen path.
"After collége I went to a lycée that specialises in Bac Pro équipements et installations électriques. The training specialises in learning about the distribution and use of electrical energy."
He proved that he paid attention when my grandson asked him where electricity came from and he could tell him.
The Bac Pro équipements et installations électriques takes two years and at the end of this the student should be able to master the intricacies of the technical and economic constraints of an industrial system; which is what he is working on now.
He has also worked in domestic premises so the training is quite comprehensive. Following the Bac he obtained BTS (Brevet Technicien Superieur) ELEC (Electrotechnique) at a specialised centre CFAI (Centre de Foramation d'Apprentis de l'Industrie).
After the Bac he spent two years at the centre studying two weeks there and two weeks at a business premises. The result is a diploma grade 3.
What is evident from people I have spoken to is that the system seems to run effectively and everyone leaves school with some qualifications.
Until the age of 16 secondary education is compulsory and this covers attendance at a Collège until the age of 15.
At the age of 15 the students sit a written examination a Brevet des Collèges in Maths, French, History and Geography to determine which Lycée they will progress to, but even failure at this point won't stop their continuation in higher education.
While at Collège students are expected to master the seven basic skills of:
- Mastery of the French language
- Practical knowledge of a living modern language
- Basic elements of maths, science and technology
- Familiarity with the common techniques of communication
- The humanities
- Social and Civil responsibility
- Autonomy and Initiative
The four years of Collège are divided into cycles.
Cycles d'Observation In the first two years of Collège, 6ème and 5ème. Students follow a standard curriculum of 23 hours of standard tuition, plus around three hours of tutoring a week.
Cycles d'Orientation In the final two years 4ème and 3ème students are allowed a certain amount of subject choice; options obligatoires. There are 24 hours per week of standard tuition, plus a compulsory second language lesson.
At the end of each term students are assessed or evaluated by their teachers to determine the future studies open to the students and the type of Baccalauréat they may take.
If you wish to make an appeal against any decisions, the parent association is on hand to help parents.
For students in Primaire, Collège or Lycée it is not unusual to retake a year, Redoublement and this causes no stigma or hindrance to the child's education.
We are faced with this for our granddaughter, she arrived from England last year and her French language may not be up to progressing to the next level.
The assessment or evaluation done at the end of Collège will take into consideration whether a particular student has performed to a high enough standard to progress to the next level.
In 6éme students are introduced to a foreign language (usually English) and in 4éme they start to learn a second foreign language.
Lycée is for students who have passed the Brevet examination and who will be aged 16 to 17. It has been a respected part of the French state education system since it was introduced by Napoleon and leads to the Baccalauréat qualification.
Lycée is divided into two cycles:
Cycle de détermination is divided into Seconde général et technologique and Cycle terminal, which consists of the classes Première and Terminale, leading to the diploma Baccalauréat général or the Baccalauréat technologique.
In the first year, Seconde, the student decides on which Baccalauréat to choose and at the end of the summer term they decide on which subjects to study in the Première class: and ultimately the Baccalauréat they are aiming towards.
The Cycle de détermination consists of seven main subjects, with three hours of modules obligatoires, two options obligatoires (with 17 to choose from), options facultatives and ateliers de pratique; 29 to 33 hours per week.
Students who have opted for more vocational studies at Secondary level can apply to a Lycée Professionel where they are able to study courses like the Brevet d'études professionel (BEP) or Certificat d'aptitude Professionnelle (CAP). These lead to the Baccalauréat Professionel for a range of positions in trade, commerce and industry.
However daunting the system may look I believe the students take it more in their stride than the parents, as in any country they are the ones who worry over the exam results.
But the system will ensure every student will gain a qualification to get a job.