Education

1. The System

In France, education is the responsibility of the state and is provided through a series of state (i.e., public) schools. Private schools are also available. The Ministère de l'Education Nationale (Ministry of Education) manages all aspects of education which is mandatory up to the age of 16 and free until the age of 18. The Ministry is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of schools, the recruitment of staff, the definition of programs, and the administration of exams. Note that although education is free, text books, stationery, and other essential items have to be paid by the parents. Shops and supermarkets selling such items are extremely busy just before the beginning of the school year in September (la rentrée). It is also quite common for the more popular items to sell out early, so timely shopping is essential.

2. The Academic Year

The school year runs from the beginning of September to the end of June; the summer vacation (les grandes vacances) takes place in July and August. There are four other vacation periods:

For the winter and spring holidays, France is divided into three zones (A, B, and C); each of these zones has a slightly different vacation schedule. The Riviera (to which the area of Nice and Sophia Antipolis belongs) is part of group B.

3. The School Timetable

Traditionally, the French school week consists of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning. Wednesdays are usually reserved for sports and other non-academic activities. More and more, certain schools follow a modified schedule, such as no Saturday attendance. The school day begins between 8 AM and 8:30 AM and ends between 4:30 PM and 5:00 PM. In most schools, there is a 2 hour lunch break during which children are permitted to go home, even though schools generally provide cafeterias for children whose parents work.

4. Primary and Secondary Education

The following tables show the types of establishments for primary and secondary education and the names of the classes:

PRIMARY EDUCATION
Age Class US equiv. UK equiv. Establishment
3 - 5 Petits Nursery Reception Maternelle
5 - 6 Grands Kindergarten Infants Maternelle
6 - 7 CP 1st Infants 2 Ecole Primaire
7 - 8 CE1 2nd Juniors Ecole Primaire
8 - 9 CE2 3rd Juniors 2 Ecole Primaire
9 - 10 CM1 4th Juniors 3 Ecole Primaire
10 - 11 CM2 5th Juniors 4 Ecole Primaire


SECONDARY EDUCATION
Age Class US equiv. UK equiv. Establishment
11 - 12 6e 6th 1st form Collège
12 - 13 5e 7th 2nd form Collège
13 - 14 4e 8th 3rd form Collège
14 - 15 3e 9th 4th form Collège
15 - 16 2nde 10th 5th form Lycée
16 - 17 1ère 11th Lower 6th Lycée
17 - 18 Terminale 12th Upper 6th Lycée

At the end of 3ème (and the mandatory school period), students pass the Brevet des Collèges, and at the end of Terminale, the Baccalauréat. This latter exam, roughly equivalent to the A-levels in the United Kingdom, is a prerequisite for entering into higher education.

5. Bilingual or English Primary and Secondary Education

In addition to the standard French schools, the area offers several opportunities to those seeking bilingual (French/English) or English primary or secondary education.

For primary education, the Ecole Primaire Sartoux offers a bilingual program starting at the CP level (see table above). Only children who either live in Valbonne Sophia Antipolis or who have at least one parent working in that community are eligible. The number of places is very limited, and all candidates are required to take an oral and written entrance exam. The exam is designed to detect potential and excellence in at least one language (French or English). This means that candidates with outstanding skills in one of the two languages and very little knowledge in the other normally do better than children who have an average level in both languages. The anglophone staff of the school is employed by ASEICA, a private non-profit organization. For more information on this primary school or ASEICA, check the ASEICA web page.

ASEICA, the the Association pour le soutien de l'Education Internationale sur la Côte d'Azur, has worked within the French state education system for more than 20 years, promoting high quality, bilingual education for thousands of children. It works with several schools in the area, including the CIV, or Centre International de Valbonne. As with the primary school, there is an entrance exam. Entry into the program is not guaranteed as the number of candidates always exceeds the number of slots. Successful candidates are selected based on criteria similar to those used for the primary level (discussed above).

Tuition for the anglophone section is not free for either the primary or secondary level. Please consult the ASEICA web site for more information or contact them directly (contact information is available here.

The Mougins School is a private day school for children from 3 to 18 years of age. It follows the UK National Curriculum, leading to GCSE/IGCSE and A-level examinations. The language of instruction is English, but French is taught as a regular subject. In addition to academic classes, the school, like the CIV, offers a range of extra-curricular and sporting activities. Contact information may be found on the school's web site.

The ISN (International School of Nice) provides English-taught education to children from 4 to 18 years of age. The school is recognized by the International Baccalaureate Organization and offers the course I.B. full diploma and certificates at grades 11 and 12. IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) is offered at grades 9 and 10. The school is also used as an examination center for PSAT, SAT I and II, TOEFL, Advanced Placement (AP) and ACT. Contact information for the ISN:

International School of Nice
15 avenue Claude Debussy
06200 Nice
France
+33 [0]4 93 21 04 00 (phone)
+33 [0]4 93 21 69 11 (fax)
Web site: http://www.isn-nice.com

6. Higher Education

Higher Education (Enseignement Supérieure) is available to holders of a Baccalauréat. The choice is between a university, a school for professional studies (such as a business school), or a private college offering a variety of courses. In France, one often encounters the terms Bac+2, Bac+3, and so on; these indicate the number of years of study following the Baccalauréat. For universities, these levels of study loosely correspond to the following categories:

7. Signing Up Children for School

A certain number of documents are indispensable to this process:

Enrollment takes place at the schools except in the case of nursery school which one must sign up for at one's Mairie (town hall). To sign up for a private or semi-private school from abroad, contact the school directly. For public schools, contact the French Consulate or Embassy closest to your current residence.

8. Pre-School

There are two main ways to care for children three months and older whose parents are both employed: a crèche or garderie (nursery/pre-school) or a nourrice (nurse/nanny). The crèches/garderies are very popular, and it is therefore advisable to reserve a place in the community of residence as early as possible (i.e., in the early stages of pregnancy). Most take children starting at 3 months of age (if both parents are working), remain open during school vacations (with the possible exception of August), and charge according to the parents' income. In most cases, lunch is provided, though some facilities expect parents to furnish it. There are two types of crèches/garderies: there is the crèche municipale which is run by the Mairie (town hall) and the crèche parentale which is run by an association of parents. For more information, consult your Mairie or look up "Crèches" in the Yellow Pages.

Nannies usually work out of their own home and take care of one or several children. In some cases, it may be possible to arrange for a nanny to come to one's house. Some nannies are agrées (registered); these have to comply with strict government guidelines and are regularly monitored for compliance. The Mairies (town halls) maintain lists of nannies. They are also listed in the Yellow Pages under "Assistantes Maternelles".




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