School and Education
All children from the age of four are eligible to attend the free preschool, or “Maternelle”. The children receive all-day support and are gradually familiarised with the development of language skills, sporting prowess and initial “academic content” in a playful environment. Lunch is served to the children – it is France, after all – as an age-appropriate, “three-course meal”, which is usually followed by an afternoon nap. It goes without saying that children can also be enrolled “part time”.
Once children have completed the “Maternelle”, they move on to the “École primaire”, “Collège” and “Lycée”. The entire school system is organised as all-day care from around 8:30 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. Schools round off the services with their own restaurants and childcare services before lessons begin and again in the afternoon. There are no classes on Wednesday afternoon, so many parents use this opportunity to spend time with their kids or to pursue family hobbies. The necessary part-time working arrangements are deeply enshrined within the French system and will not adversely affect a successful professional career.
Most cities have private schools for every age group. Regulated by the state, they offer children and their parents a somewhat more personal and exclusive environment than state schools.
There is a broad range of apprenticeships and degree programmes. Most of them are free, apart from the few elite universities. The Bologna Process ensures that these qualifications are coordinated and recognised Europe-wide.
One thing is true of foreign children, whatever their age may be: after six months of “Maternelle”, “École primaire”, “Collège” or “Lycée”, they will definitely be fluent in French. Many recent arrivals report that their children speak better French than they do and have already started to correct their mistakes. But that’s something to accept in good humour.