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Secondary Education in France

Secondary education is broken into two phases. It begins with the compulsory first cycle for ages 11 to 15 at collège. After four years of collège, the student passes an exam (brevet des collèges). It should be noted that it is not essential for the student to successfully pass the brevet in order to continue schooling.

The collège is followed by the post compulsory second cycle for ages 15 to 18 at a lycée. This is completed with the Baccalauréat. As with the elementary schools, registration must be made at the local Mairie by June, or sooner if a child is to be schooled outside of the commune of residence.

Enrolment at private and international schools takes place at the school itself.

The Service Public website has detailed information on college and high school enrolment procedures, schedules, and every day school life.

What Subjects do Children study in French school?

At collège, children study maths, French, history, geography, one foreign language and second foreign language from age 13 at the latest, physics, chemistry, science (known as SVT which covers natural sciences and biology), technology, music and art. Sport is compulsory for two hours a week at least. Once they move onto Lycée, children can specialise in a chosen area (see below).


Collège is the first cycle for kids aged 11-15 years. On completing the CM2 cycle the pupil is ready for admission into sixième (6ème).

Collège Age UK, US, other name
Sixième (6ème) 11-12 years 1st form/year 7/sixth grade
Cinquième (5ème) 12-13 years 2nd form/year 8/Junior High: seventh grade
Quatrième (4ème) 13-14 years 3rd form/year 9/eighth grade
Troisième (3ème) 14-15 years 4th form/year 10/High School: ninth grade

The child should be registered at the local college for the geographic area (exceptions do apply where the local facilities do not cater for specific studies) and applications should be made before the spring holiday. School directors are able to help with the completion of the applications.

Enrolment requirements vary between schools although generally the following will be required:

  • Application form
  • End of term reports for the past year
  • Exit certificate from the school
  • Certificate of admission to 6eme
  • Proof of vaccination certificates for DT-Polio
  • Two passport photographs with name and class requested

Further information is available from the departmental school inspectorate and from colleges in the commune.

The Service Public website also has information on college registration


For ages 15 to 18. The final three years are the seconde, première and terminale. It is at this point that the student specialises in a chosen area. The final exams are the Baccalauréat (the "Bac"). The Baccalauréat and the "International Option" Baccalauréat (OIB) are globally recognised qualifications for university entrance. Certain Bac exams (for example French) are taken at the end of première, the rest of the bac is taken in June of the terminale year.

The Service Public website has more on high school registration

Lycée Age UK, US, other name
Seconde (CAP, BEP) 15-16 years 5th form/tenth grade
Première (CAP, BEP) 16-17 years lower 6th form/eleventh grade
Terminale (BAC) 17-18 years upper 6th form/twelfth grade

The "bac" subjects are grouped by discipline:

  • General bac include: Arts & Literature (BAC L), Science (BAC S), Social & Economic (BAC ES)
  • Technological bac includes: Science & Industrial Technologies (STI2D), (Applied Arts & Design STD2A), Science & Laboratory Technologies (STL), Medical & Social Sciences (ST2S), and Science & Management Technologies (STMG)
  • Detailed information from the Ministry of Education

Lycée d'enseignement professionnel (LEP/LPA)

The LEP and LPA are technical or professional school alternatives to lycée which can be followed after receiving a brevet des collèges.

Repeating the Year (Redoubler)

From September 2015, children in primary and secondary schools will only repeat the same year (redoubler) under specific circumstances. Further information about redoublement is available on Service Public.