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French Guiana

Official Country Name: Department of Guiana
Region: South America
Population: 172,605
Language(s): French
Literacy Rate: 83%

French Guiana, an overseas department of France governed by the French Constitution, is located on the northeast coast of South America, adjacent to Brazil and Suriname. The educational system there is modeled after that of France.

Between 1980 and 1993, enrollment increased by 70 percent at the primary level and by 87 percent at the secondary level. Education, which is free, is mandatory for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Primary education lasts for five years; school enrollment at that level is nearly 100 percent, with the exception of the more remote areas of the country, such as the settlements of the Amerindians and Maroons, where resources are much more limited.

Secondary education is broken up into two cycles: a four-year program that concludes with the Brevet de College examination and an additional three-year program that culminates with the Baccalaureat examination, successful completion of which is required for entrance into tertiary institutions.

Higher education in the country is limited to teacher training and agricultural colleges and the University Antilles-Guyane, which offers postsecondary studies in administration, French language and literature, and law. Many students seeking higher education attend universities in France or the French Antilles.

The primary language of instruction at all levels is French, an issue that has been the subject of much debate given that many indigenous groups speak other languages. Also, the Guyane Educational Authority for Primary, Secondary, and Higher Education, based in Cayenne, is a decentralized government department that oversees the educational system in French Guiana.


Crant, Phillip A. "La Guyane: Past and Present." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Council on Foreign Languages, Portland, April 1975.

"French Guiana." In Europa World Yearbook. Pittsburgh: Europa Publications, 1999.

Reno, Fred, and Richard D. Burton, eds. French & West Indian: Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana Today. University Press of Virginia, 1995.

—AnnaMarie L. Sheldon

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