Deep Dive into the French high school system #1

Deep Dive into the French high school system #1

Madeleine Larzul and

The French High School system is quite different from the American High School system, mainly, because the French high school lasts three years, while American high schools last four years. The classes, exams, and even remote learning are different as well. For my deep dive, I will be explaining the differences, and how French students respond to the remote learning system and their opinions on the outcomes of the exams.


French highschoolers are between the ages of 14 to 17 years old, and they have school Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm every day.  High school lasts three years which are called La seconde ( 2nd ), La première (1ère) and La terminale. In première and terminale, students take their baccalaureat which is equivalent to the SAT, except students can only take it once, and the entire country has to take it on the same day. The baccalaureate is the most important exam in high school, as it is what will bring students to a good college. In 2nd, students take similar courses than in middle school, but the courses are harder. La seconde is the year where students get a sense of what program and baccalaureate they will choose by the end of the year. By the end of the 2nd, students choose whether they will continue their next two years in high school for a general baccalaureate, technological baccalaureate or a professional baccalaureate.

The general baccalaureat consists of three sectors which are literature ( L), science (S), or science social economy ( ES). The courses in L consist of literature, french, history, geography, philosophy, and languages. The courses in S consists of science, maths, physics, and earth science. Finally, the courses of economy/social consist of science social economy, basic math, history, geography, french, and philosophy. Students in the three sectors of the general baccalaureat can choose an optional course depending on what their school offers. Some optional courses include old languages, such as Greek or Latin, the arts such as arts and crafts, cinema, dance, art history, music or theatre, gym, horse riding or social and cultural practices.

For the second program which is technological baccalaureate, there are different sectors such as the science technology of agronomy and life ( STAV), the science technology of design and arts (STD2A), science technology of hotels and restaurants (STHR), science technology of sustainable development and industry ( STI2D), science technology of lab (STL), science technology of management (STMG), science technology of social health (ST2S), and the technique of dance and music (TMD). First, the sector of STAV is for students to have a future in agriculture, environment or the food industry where their main courses are agricultural equipment, planning, production, services, and transformation. For the STD2A the main courses are arts, techniques and civilizations, creative approach, and visual arts practices. For STI2D, the main courses are on sustainable development. For STL, the primary courses are biotechnology, laboratory physical and chemical sciences. For STMG, the primary courses are science management, law, economy, and business management. For ST2S, the main courses are psychology, and health and finally TMD is for students that are interested to have a career in theatre, dance, music, and comedy. Students in the eight sectors of a technological baccalaureate can take an optional course which is similar to the general baccalaureate.

The last program is a professional baccalaureate which in 1ère the student chooses between a BEP ou CAP exam which will bring them to work in a professional environment, such as working with companies. The exams are very hard to pass, so by the end of 1ère, the student can choose to take a technological baccalaureate instead.

From describing the different programs offered at the French high school system, the French high school curriculum is completely different from the American curriculum.