Education in France ; studying in Paris ; the French educational system ; tuition fees (2024)

Education in France (#2)

Education in France is definitely different from education in the US. On this page :

  • Raising children in France
  • An example of school expenses.
  • Studying in Paris

And also :

  • Read some facts
  • Try to understand the "Grandes Ecoles" system
  • Clouds over the French University system

(right) A national hero Jules Ferry, the symbol of free and secular education for all.

Education in France ; studying in Paris ; the French educational system ; tuition fees (1)

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Raising children in France Studying in Paris
  • French parenting is quite different from US parenting ! Children are less praised, they are taught very young to accept constraints (a regular schedule for meals, being quiet when with adults, etc). In day-care centers (state or city-owned and excellent), they enjoy 4-course meals from age one (with blue cheese..) and they are taught to be independent : they go on "classe verte" (a week in camp with the whole class) or summer camp from age six or seven. The French equivalent of Dr.Spock is Françoise Dolto (in the 1960s-1980s). American journalist Pamela Druckerman wrote an excellent book about the comparison of French-US parenting ("French children don't throw food").

  • Relations : in general, French children are much more disciplined than American children (they can stay very quiet all through a long family dinner...) ; they are much less prepared to being autonomous and to working in teams. According to psychoanalyst Patrick Baudry, early childhood is the key to understanding cultural differences between the French and the Americans : the French are toilet-trained earlier and eat baby-food later ! (read more)

  • Family life: children live with their parents much later, very often until they get married (most college students live with their parents)

  • School : contacts between parents and teachers are much less frequent than in the USA : parents are not welcome in schools ! Teachers are very tough with children : no positive reinforcement, differences in ability are much less taken into account (eveybody must be treated equally), (See Education). Harriet sums it up in her book, " French Toast " : when an American kid goes to school, his/her mother says " Have fun " but a French mother says " Work hard ". In a nutshell : French schools are much harder on children. Says Nadeau : the French don't regard childhood as an age of innocence, but see it as an age of ignorance.

  • In the OECD Assessment Program, France rates only "average" (see detailed numbers) and, consistently with the whole French society, with more very good students and more very poor students.

  • Program (high school) : heavier than in the USA : see the number of hours per subject.

  • Benefits : France has a consistent and efficient family policy (more financial aid, many more kindergartens than in Germany, for instance, etc...) and, as a consequence, France enjoys the highest birth rate (1,9) in Europe after Ireland (2,0), when Germany, Italy etc... are at 1,3.

  • More to come

This is one of the Frequently Asked Questions. This site cannot answser questions on particular cases but it tries to give some information to help potential students.

  • To study in the American system (high school and university) : see the list of American institutions on the page American Community and contact an association of Americans abroad.

  • To study in the French system (university) : as an example of one of the 13 universities in Paris, see the site of the Sorbonne (in English) and contact your own university : there are many study-abroad programs. For specialized schools (cinema, journalism, etc...for example) : contact them directly

  • For children of expats : contact the city where you live (Paris or a suburban city) for French high school and primary school and remember : an expensive (private) school is not necessarily better than a (free) public school!

  • In Paris, there are only two public high schools offering the French-English accalaureat C, option internationale anglaise (OIB): Honoré de Balzac (17e) and Camille Sée (15e). For the Collège level (i.e. 6thto senior high), there are three public schools with an English International Section : Maurice Ravel (20e), Honoré de Balzac (17e) and Camille Sée (15e).

  • To suggestions to learn French : click here.

  • Visit a comprehensive site and very useful resource on studying in France and learn about the visas in the E.U.

  • More to come....

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? French students do not live on campus : contrary to the USA, many French students live with their parents (37%), only 13% live on campus and the others rent (31%), share (6%) or occupy for free (5%) an apartment (source : OVE/Le Figaro 24/11/2007). Only "Grandes Ecoles" have campus with housing facilities, but all the students follow the same cursus.

DID YOU KNOW THAT. ? In France 60% of high school kids take a " Cahier de Vacances " (vacation book) with them on vacation : they are best sellers every year (4 million sold) and contain texts to read and exercices to do in order to keep studying during summer and not get lost when back to school. Sounds like fun, doesn't it ?

How much does it cost ? An example... DID YOU KNOW THAT....? In 2008-2009, there were 17,336 American students in France (and 7,421 French students in the USA).

In France, at all levels, education is free or almost ; the French are very attached to it, as part of what they call their "modèle social". In primary school sand high school,s textbooks are generally free (paid for by local and/or regional authorities).

Universities are financed almost entirely by State taxes. Tuitions are generally symbolic, research contracts for the private sector are significant only for Grandes Ecoles and donations are not frequent. As an example, tuition fees in France for a student of Philosophy (4th year) at the Sorbonne (annual cost) are (in 2005) :

  • Library : 26,26 Euros
  • Tuition : 102,29 Euros
  • Student activities : 8,69 Euros
  • University medical services : 4,57 Euros
  • Social Security (i.e. Health program): 170,74 Euros
  • Total : 312,55 Euros (approx. $ 200 !)

At the prestigious Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, tuition, paid by the student, is $1,160 per year when the cost per student is $16,000 and the difference is, of course, covered by the State.

This tuition is considered exceptionally high by French standards.

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? In 1995 most French students went on strike and marched in the streets because the goverment had raised the tuition fee in Universities from something like $50 to something like $100 a year.... Nevertheless, it is fact that, with universities funded only by state subsidies, France devotes much less money to higher education than the USA (1,1% of GNP vs 2,7%) which is a major weakness for the future ; the "Grandes Ecoles" get relatively much more money than the rest of the higher education system.

To related pages : more on education (#1),main issues of the French educational system (#3), French attitudes, intercultural differences, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)

Together or separately, Harriet and Philippe speak about Intercultural Differences : click here for information.

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