What Are The Differences Between French And American Education Systems


I know this is more a time to think about vacation than school, but hey, August and September will be upon us before we know it, so how about learning how the education system works in France.

If you like it, you might go over to my friend Annie Andre’s Practical Adventurology  and learn how you can leave in France for a while and benefit from such education system.  Why benefit?  Well, keep  on reading and you’ll understand what I mean.

The Differences Between the French and American Education Systems

The education system in France and that of the United States is very different. It’s different as far as the levels are called, it’s different as far as the level of education is concerned, and it’s different when it comes to the cost of high education as well.

As many of you probably know, America is built on making money and finding any way possible to that effect.  So its no surprise why the schooling system is built that way also.  The education system in the US is created in such a way that makes students go to college for both getting a decent education and finding a decent job while they’re paying big buck for it.

Before I understood this I had always wonder why French people were way more educated once they had their Baccalauréat than when Americans got their High School diploma which is both obtained at age 18.

I will explain why this is the case down below, so bare with me and see how the education system is divided in France.

How is the French Educational System Divided?

The French education system is divided in four main sections

– Ecole Primaire (Primary school)

– Ecole Secondaire (Secondary school)

– Ecole Supérieur (High School)

– Hautes Ecole (College)

Those four sections go from kindergarten to Doctorate.

How Levels are Divided

Ecole Pimaire includes (Nursery School)

Ecole Maternelle (kindergarten) from age 3 to 6

Ecole Elementaire (Primary School)

– Cours Préparatoire abbreviated – CP (first year of education) from age 6 to 7

– Cours Elémentaires first year – CE1 from age 7 to 8

– Cours Elémentaires second year – CE2 from age 8 to 9

– Cours Moyen first year – CM1 from age 9 to 10

– Cours Money second year – CM2 from age 10 to 11

Collège (Junior High)

– Sixième – 6e from 11-12

– Cinquième – 5e from 12-13

– Quatrième – 4e from 14-15

– Troisième – 3e from 14-15

Lycee (High School)

– Second – 2nd from 15-16

– Premiere- 1ere from 16-17

– Terminal 17-18

At the end of the Terminal students pass what is known as the Baccalauréat (commonly called Bac) at age 18 and can decide to go the Université (University), or Hautes Ecoles (High Schoools – college in the US.)

The reason why people who graduate with a Baccalauréat at age 18 are more educated than people who graduate from High School at the same age is because the 3 years of Lycée from Second grade to Terminal are of the level of American 3 first years of College.  So, basically a student with a baccalauréat who is 18 to 19 years old is at about at the same level of someone in the US who has 3 years of College.

After that, in France, you can get your Licence (Bachelor), Master (Master) or Doctorat (Doctorate).

Licence is usually obtained 2 years after Bac, (it’s commonly called Bac+2)

Master is usually obtained 4 years after Bac

Doctorat is obtained 7 years after Bac

Because America is founded on making money, it’s better for the country to make people go to college since it’s where the money is made with high tuition. Thus the High School education is lower than its equivalent in France.

How Much Lower is the Cost of Education in France?

The information below was taken from About-France.com.  Now remember that one €uro is about more or less two dollars (less at the moment of this article.)  So, a 250 €uros a year tuition for one student would be about $500 a year. How would you feel if you could go to three years of college at $500 per year?

[box type=”info”]Student fees in France Basic standard student fees in France for the 2011-2012 academic year are 181.57 €uros per year for undergraduates, and 249.57 € per year for post graduate Master’s courses – plus a few extras that may add on less than 100 €.

Students are also eligible for subsidized student restaurants, basic but very cheap student residences (though demand well outstrips supply for rooms in residences) bus passes and discounts in many places.

In addition, students from low-income backgrounds get grants; French student grants in 2010-11 vary from just exemption from paying tuition fees, to exemption + 4370 € per year, and are means related. [/box]

This is why education in France is not a burden on families as much as it is in the US, and just about anyone can get a good education there for little money.

Even if you go to Hautes Ecoles Privées (private colleges) you will only pay between 3000 to 7000 €uros per year, thus anywhere between $4,000 to 15,000 in US dollars. Still a far cry to the $30,000+ a year for an American college.

I thought that this subject was worth mentioning as many people in the US might not be aware of those huge differences the French and American education systems.

So, what do you think? Give your thoughts and comments down below…


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25 thoughts on “What Are The Differences Between French And American Education Systems”

  1. Hi Sylviane!

    I always wondered about the different educational systems besides the one here in the U.S.

    Seems to me France has a more practical educational system.

    I always enjoy coming to this blog. You give me such a great education about France.

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  2. You’re right Sylviane, we are all about making money and they suck us dry every darn chance they get.

    I think we are also the most expensive country too with what we charge for stuff. Now I’m sure that might not be the case everywhere but it sure does seem that way. I also know that our education system needs drastic improvement. It really saddens me with not only the drop out rate we have here but those that remain in school have a lot to be desired. I could go on and on and on but sounds to me like you guys have got it a heck of a lot better.

    Thanks for explaining this Sylviane. You always do such an exceptional job.

    Enjoy your weekend.

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      Sorry for not having replied before, but sometimes on weekends I do not go online because I’m spent, and this weekend was one of them.

      Education and food are most definitely more expensive in the US, but gas and electronics are cheaper. If you remember I’ve written post about that not too long ago. But overall, America is a capitalist country in for the money. That is one of the facts of this country.

      This said there are good and bad everywhere. America will always make people dream, no matter what.
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  3. Great post. we use Adfly for advertising in eperiments but never used it as a publisher. After reading this and your other post we shall be looking into it and running a few more eperiments.

  4. Holy Cow Sylviane! That’s a huge difference in price. It’s really sad, I love America but everything revolves around money. For crying out loud, even the whole medical system does. So when we could have well educated, healthy people who eat right and exercise, instead, we charge through the nose for everything. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Thank you for sharing. I always enjoy your stories. Have a great day.. Lisa
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    1. Hi Lisa,

      Yes, education is not cheap here to say the list, and that is part of the reason why rich get richer and poor get poorer. It’s part of a system and also a vicious cycle. I think that we can only get out of them both on our own, we can’t expect the government to help us on that. People who do won’t succeed and wonder why.
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  5. Sylviane,

    I am always interested in education and your post was very interesting to me. I know the educational system in Bulgaria and here, in the US, I have been learning the system around my daughter. She just graduated as an IB – international baccalaureate. Is it the same like the French bac? We know that this IB program is the same all over the world. Even students in Japan who are enrolled in IB have the same curriculum (excluding language of course).

    Yes, undergraduate and graduate education in US is very commercialized. But I still think it is very much worth it. If a child really wants to learn and go to college, there is always a way.

    In Bulgaria Universities are not free anymore (it used to be), but much cheaper. The quality? I don’t know. I think that the students put the quality themselves.

    Thank you for the great post!
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  6. Are you kidding me? I am living in the wrong country for sure. I remember watching House Hunters International and the couple moved to I think Sweden because her husband was accepted to a University for FREE. I would be on a plane too myself if I was offered that. BUT, how does that equate to our Bachelors here in the US? Does it count or are you required to get something different in the US? The us is all about money because most kids in college and out are dead broke.
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  7. Hey Sylviane, I hope your post will help the kids who plan to migrate from France to USA or from USA to France for higher studies. They can clearly justify the education system from your post along with other details they have. French educational system is highly centralized, organized, and ramified while in America education is provided mainly by government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local.

  8. Hey Sylviane, Thanks for sharing this informative post and letting us know with the comparison. I personally think that the education system is US should be changed. New changes should be made in education sector. If you compare France and US, France education system is quite good.

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    1. Hi Daniel, and welcome here.

      Yes, I think that the education system in France is pretty good, but I think that the German one is even better. By any mean, the Americain education system is not the best one.

      Thanks for your input.
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  9. Great Stuff! But do these differences truly cause one system to be better than another? Americans are quick to tell you that the American system is the best. The French: the same. To me, one can’t say if one system or the other is better without knowing both systems well. I’ve passed a semester in French classroom and almost sixteen years in American classrooms, and I couldn’t tell you if the education I received in the US is better that that which French students have received.

  10. I really like to read your article and i easily understand the difference between french and american education system. It’s very nice and will be helpful to kids who plan to educate from france or USA.

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