It used to be commonly accepted that the French Education system was one of the best in the world. Today, though any such a bold overall affirmation must be open to question, it is still true to say that the French education system is one of the more successful in the world, and that in certain fields it remains a world leader. According to the OECD, France’s education system is average, compared to other developed countries.
Education is compulsory in France from the ages of 6 to 16, but a large majority of children start school well before the minimum age, often as young as two years old, and over 50% of 18-21 year olds in France are still in full-time education, or else following a vocational training course. Some 64% of all school pupils in France complete their secondary education, and take the high-school leaving certificate examinations, known as the baccalauréat or the baccalauréat professionnel. The official target – estimated as necessary for the needs of the nation – is 80%.
There are three main categories of higher education institutions in France: the public universities, thegrandes écoles (which include France’s prestigious schools of business and engineering) and the schools of art and architecture.
- Public Universities
Of the 2.2 million students in the French higher education system, 80 percent attend the country’s public universities, which are funded by the national government and are well- distributed across the nation. These universities include some of France’s oldest and most prestigious institutions, and offer academic, technical and professional degree programs in all disciplines and at all levels.
France’s renowned grandes écoles are very selective, specialized schools which are much smaller than the large public universities. They train students for careers in engineering, management, higher education and research, and public administration, among other fields. The two largest groups of grandes écoles are the schools of engineering and schools of management, but there are also the écoles normales supérieures (ENS), the institutes of political studies (IEP), veterinary schools, as well as various others.
Schools of Art, Design and Architecture
France has been home to many of the world’s greatest international artists, designers, and architects, and its 60 public art schools and 20 schools of architecture offer many exciting opportunities to study and/or specialize in art or architecture in France.
France has more than 3,000 public and private specialized schools that offer training and degrees in fields such as nursing, journalism, social work, fashion, design, tourism, culinary arts, hotel management, and many more.