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Saturday, March 6, 2010

The French Education System - Collège


Dear readers,

The French education system, like so many others, has unique names for different school years and exams. In this, our first article, I will explain to you, in the easiest way I can, about the different years and I will tell you a bit about the subjects and exams to expect as you work your way through.

To start off, in France, they have 6ème, 5ème, 4ème and 3ème in collège, and 2nde, 1ère and Terminale in lycée. Collège is basically secondary school all the way up to your GCSEs (Britain) or Junior Cert (Ireland), of which the French equivalent is the Brevet des Collèges. After your Brevet, you move onto lycée and into 2nde.

After CM 2 (the last year of primary school), you go into 6ème which is also known as the "cycle d'adaptation". In this year, you will have many hours of your timetable taken up with subjects that you will not have the following year. These are called "les heures d'adaptation" which helps you to adapt to life in collège. Other subjects include music, art, technology (woodwork, metalwork, technical drawing), choir (optional) SVT (biology), and the Projet Personnalisé de Réussite Educative (PPRE) which helps students in difficulty with things such as reading and writing etc. This is advisable for any students who have recently moved over from a foreign country, but it's for all students in 6ème.

After 6ème, you move into the "cycle central" which is 5ème and then 4ème. In these years, you will no longer have the PPRE, but will keep art, choir etc. New subjects will include Latin (optional but can count towards your BAC) and Physics and Chemistry (one subject). In 5ème, you could be doing different workshops and group projects chosen between you and your teacher. Then when you move into 4ème, you'll need to start thinking about lycée and what job you would like to do when you leave school. Part of the 4ème curriculum includes a week of "work experience" where you'll get to see how enterprises work. This includes day trips etc.

After 4ème, you'll be moving onto your last year at collège. This is the year where, if in Britain, all the girls would cry come June... That's not the case in France! 3ème is known as the "cycle d'orientation" where you have to decide what BAC you want to go on to do, in order to decide whether lycée générale or professionelle is best for you. The best way to do this is to pick a job or a field that you'd be happy working in, see what BAC you would need, then see which course you have to do to get access to that BAC. 3ème is not worth repeating if your averages are higher than 10. The teachers will try to make you repeat and they will say that it will be too hard. Don't fall for it! In an interview with a french teacher, she said casually, that "we repeat all foreign students once they get to 3ème before going onto 2nde". So it's a cycle that they have in place. If your averages are under 10, then a repeat of 3ème is advised. If not, ignore the teachers, tell them you want to pass onto lycée straight away, and if they still persist in saying that a repeat of the year is what they want you to do, you can appeal to the school's "conseil de classe" (class council) which is made up of your year head, class tutor and principal. Making an appeal could force them to put you through. Remember, the teachers are not your friends, they don't want you to do your best in France, and they just want to get you through the system and out the other side with a BAC. It might not even be a BAC that allows you to do what you want to do, so do what you want to do and don't listen to them unless your average is under 10.
Another thing that comes up in 3ème is the Brevet. This cannot determine whether you go onto lycée or not because you do the Brevet after that decision has been made. Throughout the year, you'll do two or three Brevet Blancs. A Brevet Blanc is a mock exam which prepares you for the real thing in June. Brevet Blancs are also notoriously harder than the real Brevet, however, the Brevet Blancs are easily noted and they won't go too hard on you. If your notes are bad for the Brevet Blancs, a lot of work needs to be put in in order to prepare yourself for the real thing.

Article by The Editor

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