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Which school should I choose for my child ?

The choice between Public and private school system has to be made according to the personality of the child and the situation of its family. In the case of a long stay and an interest in French culture and language a state run school might be better and less expensive. 

On the other side, if it is important to obtain a foreign diploma or to reintegrate in a foreign school system some years later, a private international institution is more appropriate. Some private schools, for the most part Roman Catholic establishments, offer the same program as state schools and let to the same exams. In total 17% of pupils follow a private education.

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Which are the main bilingual schools in the region ?

The “Ecole primaire des Sartoux” is a primary school following the French curriculum

with an English and a german section offering bilingual teaching in roughly equal proportions.

The CIV (Centre International de Valbonne) offers bilingual teaching in English, german, Spanish and Italian on a secondary level preparing the International Baccalaureat of Geneva. (BOI)

The I.S.N. (International School of Nice) provides education for children aged from 4 to 18 based on the American curriculum.

Mougins School is a private day school for children form 3 to 18 years and follws the UK curriculum.

Ecole du Pain de Sucre et Ecole du Pain d’epice are private bilingual schools on the primary level. (2-11 years).

In most of these institutions the child have to pass an entrance exam, based on both language and general skills.

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How is the school year in general organized ?

The school year runs from the beginning of September to the end of June. The summer break is in July and August. Apart of these, there are 4 other holiday periods:

Autumn holidays in the end of October

Christmas holidays in the second half of December

Winter holidays in February

Spring holidays in April

Though in general, 6 to 8 weeks of school are followed by 2 weeks of holidays.

For winter and spring holidays, France is divided into three zones, A, B and C, which stagger their holidays.

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How the school week in general is organized ?

The school week in French state schools traditionally consists of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, plus Wednesday or in some cases Saturday morning. The school day begins at 8.30 a.m. and ends at 4.30 p.m. There is a two hour lunch break, during which the children eat in the school canteen or go home for lunch.

The school day might even be longer, if your child attends the “garderie” (before- or after-school supervision) from about 7.45 a.m. to 18.30 p.m., a paid service reserved to children who’s parents are working.

All children, even young ones, will probably given regular homework.

Sports and music are extracurricular activities, which have to be organised in the evening or on the Wednesday afternoon. Most of the children take part in at least one activity.

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How to enrol a child in school ?

A child’s school is determinded by his address, except in some cases like changing address within the school year.

Needed documents are the child’s birth certificate, a French medical certificate, vaccination certificates and school records. For the nursery school, the inscription has to be done in the town hall. For primary and secondary schools you have to enrol your child at the school itself.

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What are the main cycles of education ?

Primary education starts with three years of nursery school (école maternelle), which is not obligatory, but receives almost all children from the age of three up to five.

School is compulsory from the age of 6 to 16 years. The five years in primary school are called CP (cours preparatoire) CE 1 and 2 (cours elementaire) and CM 1 and 2 (cours moyen).

From the age of 11 children go to the middle school (collège) and afterwards to the high school (lycée). In this secondary schools classes are counted backwards from 6ième to 1ère followed by the terminale.

A diploma can be obtained after the 3ième, the brevet des colleges and the baccalaurèat after the terminale, necessary for entering into higher education. There are various options for the “bac” based on literature, science or linguistics. Other sections prepare the student for professional, scientific or artistic study.

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What are the main institutions for higher education ?

The choice is between a university, a school for professional studies or a private college offering a variety of courses. The level of the studies attained correspond to the number of years after the baccalauréat (Bac +2 for the first university diploma to Bac +5 for a PhD) which are the common categories in job advertisements and other professional situations.

At the university there is neither selection process nor restriction on the number of admittances. Grandes Ecoles are colleges that usually demand a preliminary year of study or an entry examination. Therefore they are very well regarded in France, especially for business or engineers.

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How the pupils are evaluated ?

Marks are given very early and school records are very important, especially when changing to another school. Already in nursery school the pupils receive two evaluations per year, passing to three reports per year in primary school. 

Note schemes vary from one school or teacher to another, going from colour codes to verbal mentions, A to E levels and 10 or 20 point system (16 points of 20).

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Do parents participate in school administration or events ?

Parents are represented in the school council for primary schools or the broad of administration for collège and lycée. Often organisized in associations they have different political and ideological tendencies. They intervene on all questions of school organisation, such as pedagogical projects, canteen or transports.

Développement Christophe Arsonnaud - Chris informatique