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France Education Facts


From 2019, it will be compulsory for all 3-year-olds to attend preschool in France. It is the lowest age for compulsory schooling among EU countries. The compulsory schooling then applies to the age of 16. About two out of three students complete high school.

The preschool (maternelle) is divided into three stages and contains a lot of teaching. Also many of two year olds start in preschool.

The compulsory school is divided into a five-year lower stage and a four-year high school (collège). In the last two years, students can choose theoretical or practical orientation. State schools are the most common, but almost one in five students attend a private school, most of which is run by the Catholic Church. The state pays teacher salaries for private schools, which usually have low fees for students.

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Until 2008, children generally went to school on Saturdays, but had Wednesdays free. Now everyone is free on Saturdays, but some still have holy days or half days on Wednesdays. It is quite common for students to go to a class to improve their results.

After primary school, students can continue in two-year vocational schools or three-year colleges (lycée). High school studies conclude with a bachelor’s degree (baccalaureate, ” le bac “). About four out of five pass the bachelor’s degree, which automatically gives admission to the college. Nearly two-thirds of them then go on to universities and colleges, but many drop out as early as the first year. Many students also find it difficult to enter the labor market after completing their studies. The university is not free, but the fees are low and a relatively large proportion of students do not have to pay at all.

France has around 80 universities with about two million students, more than twice as many as 1980. The oldest and most famous is Sorbonne in Paris. In addition, there are several specialized colleges (les grandes écoles) that educate the elite in politics, administration and business.

The universities are open to everyone, while the special colleges require several years of special preparation and pass an entrance exam. The most famous of these colleges is ENA (l’Ecole Nationale d´Administration), founded in 1945.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

98.6 percent (2016)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

18 (2013)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

9.7 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

9.7 percent (2015)



UMP appoints new leader

After bitter internal conflict, accusations of electoral fraud and the recalculation of votes, the conservative opposition party UMP Jean-François Copé appoints new leader.

Sarkozy frias

After extensive interrogation, President Nicolas Sarkozy is cleared of suspicions of receiving illegal campaign contributions before the 2007 presidential election.

Fight against same-sex marriage

The leadership of the French Catholic Church is launching a campaign against the Socialist Government’s proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.


Tax for high income earners

The National Assembly decides on 75 percent tax on income over one million euros. The tax will be levied for two years and is expected to affect approximately 1,500 taxpayers. According to the opposition, it is a matter of pure criminal tax.


Charlie Hebdo publishes Mohammed drawings

The satire newspaper publishes drawings by Prophet Muhammad, amid a wave of protests in Muslim countries against an Islam-hostile movie clip on the Internet.


Peugeot cuts down

The car manufacturer announces that the Aulnay plant outside Paris will be closed, which means that 8,000 jobs will be lost. The government promises new support for the crisis-hit car industry.

60,000 new teacher jobs in five years

It is one of the government’s promises. The government is also planning tax increases for mainly large companies and high salaries of approximately SEK 115 billion over two years. Budget spending should also be cut.

The house search at Sarkozy

Police are investigating former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is suspected of illegally funding the 2007 election campaign.


Success for the left

June 10th

When both rounds of elections are finalized, the Socialist Party with allies has 331 of the 577 seats in the national assembly, while the right-wing party UMP together with support parties receive 229 seats. The National Front gets 2 seats, but the party leader Marine Le Pen does not enter the National Assembly. Instead, her niece gets a place there.


Hollande takes office

15th of May

Hollande becomes France’s first socialist president in 17 years. Jean-Marc Ayrault is appointed new Prime Minister. Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was Prime Minister in the 1980s.

Hollande wins the presidential election

May 6

In the decisive round of the presidential election, Hollande overcomes incumbent President Sarkozy, with 51.7 against 48.3 percent.


First round of presidential elections

March 22

The Socialist Party’s François Hollande wins by just under 29 percent against just over 27 percent for Sarkozy. The National Front’s Marine Le Pen is doing better than expected and receiving support of 18 percent. Left-wing Jean-Luc Mélenchon gets 10 percent, which was worse than expected.


terrorist acts

11th of March

An Islamist kills seven people in the Toulouse area and is then shot dead by police after the siege.


Judgment on the genocide

The Constitutional Court states that the Genocide Act concerning the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in 1915 (see January) violates the Constitution’s protection of freedom of expression.


Genocide is adopted by the Senate

Genocide is adopted by the Senate (see December 2013).

Reduced credit rating

The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s lowers France’s credit rating one step from the top AAA listing. It’s a tough blow to the country.

France Best Colleges and Universities