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World Education Highlight - France

Updated: Apr 1

Say 'Bonjour' to a system that prides itself on critical thinking and high academic standards.



France's public education system, once accessible only to the elite, now stands as a symbol of offering robust and rigorous academic standards to all.


What makes the French system unique is its strong emphasis on academics and a standardized curriculum. Students are expected to excel under high pressure and meet rigorous academic standards. Unlike in the US, there's less focus on extracurricular activities, with French education placing more importance on academic success.


This approach to education has worked well for France. According to the U.S. News & World Report, France's public education system ranks #14 in the world, ahead of countries like the United States, South Korea, and China. The literacy rate in France is 99%.


Here are some of the highlights of France's education system that make it stand out:


Embracing Rigor: The rigorous French education system can be attributed to a quote from one of its famous philosophers, Alain: “L’homme se forme par la peine,” that is, “man is formed through effort.” Educators do not see learning as a fun activity. They place heavy emphasis on rote learning.


Critical Thinking: Part of this rigor is devoted to studying philosophy. Stemming from the French Revolution, students are exposed to abstract and critical thinking at a much younger age than in many other countries. By teaching children to question the world around them and deepen their knowledge, France feels it is preparing students to be productive adults in society.


Selective Pathways: The French system offers selective pathways, such as the prestigious "lycée" system, which prepares students for higher education and prestigious careers. Students are placed into different tracks based on their academic performance and career aspirations.


Standardized Testing: France uses standardized testing extensively to assess student performance and determine academic placement. This process includes exams such as the Baccalauréat (bac), which is the primary qualification for university admission. The bac is


School is for Learning, Not for Sports: The French education system prioritizes academic achievement over extracurricular activities such as sports. While physical education is still part of the curriculum, it may receive less attention than core academic subjects. This sentiment may be changing, though. Recently, France found that over the past 40 years, students have not had enough physical activity. As a result, they are slowly integrating more sports and physical activity into their school day.


France's public education system has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from an institution catering solely to the elite to one that provides rigorous academic standards for all. With a strong emphasis on academics and a standardized curriculum, students are challenged to excel under high pressure and meet rigorous academic standards, which leads to outcomes that make it one of the leading countries in education.


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