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France

Preprimary & Primary Education


Preprimary: During 2000-2001 over 6.5 million pupils were enrolled in the public preprimary and primary schools of France (about 2.5 million in the écoles maternelles and approximately 4.2 million in the écoles élémentaires). Previously organized by yearly "grades," present day primary programs fall into pluri-annual cycles: first apprenticeships (apprentissages premiers) cover the preprimary cycle; fundamental apprenticeships begin in the final year of preprimary and last over the first two years of primary; and deeper explorations (approfondissments) occupy the final three years of primary school.

Briefly summarized, the areas dealt with in the école maternelle (cycle I) include: Living Together; Speaking and Building Up Your Own Language (an initiation into the study of French); Acting in the World (interacting physically and imaginatively with objects; other people-games; and sports); Discovering the World (natural and human spaces; materials like wood, metals, etc.; hygiene; and the environment); Imagining, Feeling, and Creating (singing; drawing and painting; dance; theater; some writing; recognition of forms; and counting).


Primary (Cycle II): The goals to be achieved by the time this cycle is completed are as follows (in relation to the subjects dealt with):

  • French: The pupils have learned to speak in public, to listen to others, to tell and invent stories; to read both out loud and silently; and to write in clearly formed characters.
  • Mathematics: The pupils have mastered the numbers from 1 to 1000 and understand decimal numerals; they know how to compare numbers; they are in a position to practice addition, multiplication, and subtraction and can reckon mentally; they are able to resolve simple problems using these resources; they can recognize a few geometric shapes (circle, square, rectangle, etc.) and can reproduce them; they both know and can use common units of measure (meter and centimeter; gram and kilogram; and liter, hectoliter and milliliter).
  • Discovering the World (History, Geography, Sciences, and Technology): The pupils know their way around more or less proximate spaces and historical periods, and begin to put the latter into chronological order as they learn also to use maps, the globe, and certain major elements of the universe; they have some precise knowledge of how their bodies work, of rules of hygiene, and of animal and vegetable life; and they have learned to use simple technical tools, such as a camera.
  • Civics: Basing themselves on their classroom experience, the pupils have learned fundamental rules of social interaction: respect for self and others and rules for living in common with others; they know that France is a republic; and are familiar with several of its symbols.
  • The Creative Arts: The pupils interpret simple songs and do drawings, paintings, collages, and sculptures with various techniques and materials; they undergo some basic initiation to theater, dance, and imaging.
  • Physical Education and Sports: The pupils develop their motor skills and learn to run, jump, throw, and swim better; learn to respect game rules; and learn team ship.

Primary (Cycle III): This final cycle explores more deeply the above-mentioned subjects and activities, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of the class members. When required, special counseling and help will be made available to individual students. Every effort will be made in order to see to it that each pupil advances regularly alongside his or her classmates.

Some daily foreign language instruction will be introduced during this cycle. The time given over to this activity will rarely go beyond a quarter of an hour; video and audio cassettes will be made available to teachers that want them. Goals of this level are:

  • French: The pupils learn to recite from memory a poetic text; they are capable of reading a 10-page piece of prose without excessive fatigue; they learn to correctly take down a dictated text of about 10 lines; and they are able to compose a short text respecting spelling and grammatical rules.
  • Mathematics: The pupils can perform decimal calculations; they are familiar with the usual geometric shapes; they have mastered the four arithmetical operations and can calculate in their heads; they know how to use such tools as the ruler, the square, and the compass; and they can solve problems using the above operations and measuring instruments.
  • History and Geography: The pupils are able to identify the major prehistorical and historical periods of French history; they know a number of important dates; and they can locate on a map the following elements of French geography: major rivers, mountain ranges, various regions, the basic French administrative units, and large cities.
  • Science and Technology: The pupils have learned how to simply analyze the relationship between living beings and their habitat; they can perform simple experiments; and they understand the concept of assembly, such as how to set up an electric circuit.
  • Civics: The pupils prove themselves capable of respecting the rules governing their school and of understanding each individual's responsibility with respect to society at large; and they can describe the political institutions of France, such as universal suffrage and the workings of the National Assembly.
  • The Creative Arts (Music and the Plastic Arts): The pupils are capable of observing, listening, producing, and inventing in ways that develop their creative imagination and form their sense of culture by relating and comparing works drawn from different periods and styles; and they further develop their abilities with respect to theater, dance, and imaging.
  • Physical Education and Sports: The pupils become increasingly aware of the rhythms of living beings; and through the practice of sports they acquire greater ease and try to attain a certain performance level in the activities, which they practice.
  • Foreign Language: Initiation into foreign language study will continue as the pupils go on to middle school-level work.

The first year of college or the beginning of intermediate schooling, la sixième, will consist largely of consolidating what the primary school has taught the pupil with a view toward his acquiring new notions and developing more sophisticated intellectual tools and work methods.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceFrance - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education