Education and Study

Expats taking their children with them to France will want to know what the options of schools are in the country. The standard of education in France is quite high with a variety of public, private and international schools available. Before deciding what school is best for your child, you must consider costs, curriculum and mainly the language.

Many children start education from the age of 3 and attending is compulsory for children aged 6-16 years of age. The state school system is divided into four stages:

  1. Early childhood Education: From Ages 3-6. Parents who admit their child into early childhood education will be taught a curriculum set by the state and will prepare students for primary schools. Early childhood schools are free, but parents may be required to pay for lunch as well as childcare outside school hours. This will also help your child overcome the language barrier.
  2. Primary Education: From Ages 6-11. Primary schools will teach children a range of subjects including Maths, History and Languages to prepare them for secondary education.
  3. Lower Secondary Education: From Ages 11-15. Here students will be given secondary education in core subjects, and then they will be required to take a National Diploma exam in the final year.
  4. Upper Secondary Education: From Ages 15-18

Academic school year is from September to July, which is the same as the UK. It is important that the children take part in activities such as Music and Art. Primary school children must attend half day on Wednesday or Saturday.

Public Schools

Education in public schools is usually free for citizens and children up to the age of 16 unless parents decide to send their child to a private school. Expats wanting to get their child enrolled into a public school will be required to show proof of residence.

Majority of the schools in France follow the national curriculum which is set by the country’s Ministry of Education and will be the same as the UK. So expats moving will not need to worry about the curriculum being different.

It is advised that parents speak to other parents who send their child to a public school as the standard can vary.  Some of the schools maintain an international curriculum geared towards teaching French to non-Francophone students before going to the French system. This is mainly in middle and high school which are found in the larger cities of France.

Due to the French education system, children may only be able to attend school within a distance of their home. Parents wanting their child to go to a public school outside of the area must put in a special request.

To enrol into a public school, you will be required to submit an application form at the local town hall for primary schools or at the rectorat school office for secondary school. The enrolment form must include:

  • Passport or birth certificate
  • Proof of immunisations
  • Insurance proof
  • Proof of residence

Private Schools

Private schools in France are privately funded or partially funded by the state. Parents prefer to send children to private schools because of the small class sizes, facilities being better and for the highly experienced teachers.

These are available for both primary school and secondary school children with some schools encompassing both.

Majority of the private schools will have a faith based value system which is mainly Catholic. You must consider that this will be included in your child’s education and subjects are most likely to be taught in the French language. Regardless of this, the schools are forbidden to discriminate against student’s religion and student will not need to take part in any religious activities.

The private schools which are state-sponsored have a better reputation than the funded schools. Although, sponsored private schools will follow a French curriculum and children will have less opportunities to take part in extracurricular activities. Schools that are state-sponsored are generally less expensive than those that are privately funded. Fees range from €400 to €4,000 annually, but this can vary.

Most of the schools will have a limited number of places, and admission may be competitive. It is important that parents try and secure a place by enquiring at the school before moving. Boarding private schools are also available where children are able to stay.

Admission requirements:

  • Proof of Address
  • Previous school records and entrance exams
  • May need to pass a test

International Schools

As well as private schools, there are also many international schools in France which are based in the larger cities such as Paris. This is ideal if parents want to maintain consistency in the curriculum for their child’s education. At majority of the international schools such as the British and American, the same curriculum will be taught and students will receive the same qualifications as the country of origin.

International schools are a great option for expats who will be returning to their home country and it will prove a smoother transition. Some however, are bilingual so children will be able to complete their education as well as learning about the culture in France.

Sending your child to an International school can be quite expensive with fees ranging from €3,000 to €25,000 depending on the school level i.e. primary school or secondary


For students who want to further study or want to come to the country to attend University there is over 80 universities in France with some of them ranking in the top 500 universities in the world.

Students are able to study for undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees in public or private universities.

Some of the universities will not teach all degrees and only specialise in business or science subjects.

Public universities are funded by the government, which means the tuition fees are cheaper than the private universities. Private universities are quite expensive with fees ranging from €2,000 to €30,000 per year.

Expats from an EU country will not need a study visa to attend a university in France but other international students will be required to have a student visa for the length of the course.