La maternelle

When we think of our earliest school memories, it is often la maternelle that comes to mind. A colorful, gentle, warm world, where each day is an adventure. So, what do we really learn in maternelle?

Petite Section : This is the very beginning, the first step on the vast ladder of education. At this age, the focus is on adapting to this new environment. Children learn to live in groups, to share, to listen. They also discover simple, but essential activities, such as recognizing and naming colors, handling different materials (modeling clay, paint...), and are introduced to the first songs and rhymes.

Moyenne Section : Now that children are more familiar with the school environment, we go a bit further. Fine motor skills are developed through activities like cutting, coloring, or assembling. Numbers are introduced, with counting objects or recognizing the first numbers. They are also introduced to more complex concepts, such as seasons or days of the week.

Grande Section : The final step before primary school! Here, things become more serious, while remaining playful. Children immerse themselves more in the world of letters. Many start to recognize letters of the alphabet, write their first names, and some even take their first steps in reading. Mathematical concepts also deepen, with the introduction of addition or subtraction in a very basic way. But above all, grande section is a preparation for entering CP, ensuring a smooth and gradual transition.


L'école élémentaire

Once maternelle is behind them, children embark on a new crucial stage of their educational journey: l'école élémentaire.

Le CP (Cours Préparatoire) : The CP is a major step. It could even be said that it's the starting point of the "grand academic journey." This is where children learn the basics of reading and writing. Imagine the magic of deciphering one's first words, writing one's first sentences! Mathematics also begins, with learning numbers, simple calculations, and the first notions of geometry.

Le CE1 (Cours Élémentaire 1) : After acquiring the basics, CE1 comes to reinforce these fundamentals. Reading becomes smoother, writing more complex, and in mathematics, we delve into slightly more elaborate operations. The child also gains in autonomy and confidence.

Le CE2 (Cours Élémentaire 2) : The journey continues with a diversification of subjects. While French and math remain central, history and geography are gently introduced, allowing students to discover the world around them, from the earliest civilizations to our current society. The sciences are also introduced, sparking curiosity about how nature works.

Le CM1 (Cours Moyen 1) : Learning continues in depth. Texts become more complex, mathematical operations more elaborate, and discovery of the world is enriched. This is often where a first foreign language is introduced, usually English. Students begin by learning simple words, basic sentences, and thus discover a new culture.

Le CM2 (Cours Moyen 2) : The final step before middle school! Students consolidate all their knowledge, thus preparing for a smooth transition to collège. The texts studied are more mature, mathematics touch on more advanced concepts, and proficiency in the foreign language is refined.


Le Collège

Le collège is the bridge between childhood and adolescence. So, what happens during these four years?

La 6ème : The first step. Students, fresh from primary school, take their first steps in collège. It's the year of discovery: a new institution, new peers, and above all, new subjects! In addition to the classics like French and mathematics, they familiarize themselves with technology and delve deeper into learning a foreign language, often English.

La 5ème : With a year of experience, students feel more comfortable. Here, they deepen their knowledge and continue to explore new horizons. This is often the year when they begin to study a second foreign language, such as Spanish, German, or Italian.

La 4ème : The adventure continues with increasing expertise. The basics are consolidated, and more in-depth topics are tackled. Sciences play a central role, introducing physics and chemistry and deepening in SVT (Science of Life and Earth), where students learn, for example, how the human body works or the mysteries of the universe.

La 3ème : In addition to the usual curriculum, it's time to think about future orientation. Students actively prepare for an important exam: le brevet des collèges. This exam assesses the knowledge and skills acquired at the end of collège and is often the first major academic challenge of

The Lycée

The lycée, that pivotal step that gently guides us towards adulthood and towards sometimes decisive choices for our future.

La Seconde : It's the entrance to the lycée. This year is somewhat special as it is considered an orientation year. Students study a set of subjects known as "common core". These include French, Mathematics, History-Geography, Foreign Languages, Economic and Social Sciences, Physics-Chemistry, Life and Earth Sciences, and even Physical and Sports Education. All of this helps everyone pinpoint their interests and aptitudes before making choices for the future.

La Première : The year when things really start to take shape! While students continue to study a number of common subjects, they also choose specialties. Depending on their aspirations and passions, they can gravitate towards areas such as:

  • Mathematics: for those who love numbers and logic.
  • History-Geography, Geopolitics and Political Sciences: to understand the world around us.
  • Languages, Literature and Foreign Cultures: for those who dream of faraway places.
  • Economic and Social Sciences: to decipher societal challenges.
  • Literature, Languages and Cultures of Antiquity: to go back in time and study ancient civilizations.

... and many more!

La Terminale : The final stretch before the famous baccalauréat! Students continue to delve deeper into their chosen specialties while actively preparing for this crucial exam. The "bac", as it's colloquially known, is a challenging examination that spans several weeks, comprising both oral and written tests across various subjects.

The baccalauréat is divided into different series, depending on the specialties chosen, and it assesses not only knowledge but also the ability to think, argue, and express oneself.


Higher education

Once the baccalauréat is achieved, the adventure is just beginning, and the realm of higher education opens up to French students.

L'Université : This often comes to mind when thinking about studies after the bac. Universités are scattered throughout France and welcome a large number of students. They offer:

  • La Licence: It lasts 3 years and provides an initial level of expertise in a field. Whether you're passionate about psychology, history, law, or the sciences, there's likely a licence for you.
  • Le Master: After the licence, if you wish to further specialize, you can pursue a master's. It's an additional 2 years, often leading to managerial positions or research.
  • Le Doctorat: For those deeply passionate about a topic and wanting to contribute to advancing knowledge, there's the doctorate. This typically involves 3 years (or more) of intensive research on a specific subject.

The BTS (Brevet de Technicien Supérieur) : These two-year programs are more practice-oriented and quickly lead to the professional world. You learn a specific trade. Whether you wish to work in tourism, management, IT, or applied biology, there's a wide array of BTS options.

Les CPGE (Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles) : Perhaps you've heard of the grandes écoles in France? They're renowned for their excellence. To get in, many students take the CPGE route. These intense 2-year classes prepare students for the grandes écoles entrance exams, be it in business, engineering, or literature.

Each choice, whether it's the université, BTS, or CPGE, is a step towards a specific professional project, that is, the profession the student aims to pursue.

The French educational system is rich and diverse. It provides each student with a path tailored to their needs, desires, and talents.


Vocabulary exercise on schooling in France: