10 Things You Didn’t Know About French Schools


It’s almost time for back to school! (Yay?)

Here in the U.S., students are flocking to Staples for school supplies and finishing up (hopefully not starting) their summer reading assignments. Soon, they’ll be back in their classrooms- and so will the students in France. But, trust us, their school experiences will be quite different. In honor of the coming return to academia, which the French call la rentrée, we present to you 10 things you didn’t know about French schools.


1. School lunches in France last 2 hours

…And feature multiple-course meals, including fresh bread, gourmet cheeses, meat, and seasonal fruits. Vending machines with junk food are banned, and the only available beverage is water. There is no “kids’ food,” and students are not allowed to bring lunch from home.

2. French students don’t have school on Wednesday afternoons.

But – before you take to the streets in protest – they do on Saturday mornings.

3. France doesn’t have a Pledge of Allegiance

In fact, almost no countries other than the USA (and probably North Korea) have national pledges in schools.

4. French school days last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And what a difference that time makes.

5. French schools offer very few extracurriculars.

Clubs are things your parents’ parents’ parents are born into. And organized leisure is a somewhat American concept.

6. Religious symbols of any kind are banned in French schools

Since 1905, the French government has been officially secular. The wearing of religious markers such as jewelry or headscarves is therefore illegal in schools- and is the subject of constant controversy.

7. Classrooms in France – like Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard – are bare

Unlike American classrooms, which are usually plastered with motivational posters, students’ work, and study aids, classrooms in France are liberated from the shackles of childish ornamentation.

8. Everything in France is scored out of 20

Meanwhile, grades in the US are scored out of 100%, with 93% being the lowest acceptable rate for any high-achiever. In France, grades are scored out of 20, and it’s nearly impossible to get a perfect score. 10 is a pass; 12 is “good”, and most teachers would never dream of giving over 17.

9. And grades are posted publicly 

On bulletins in hallways, for the entire school to see. Sacré bleu!

10. French universities are affordable

Unlike American universities, which enslave students in a life-time debt cycle with tuition costing up to $70,000 a year, French universities typically cost several hundred euros per year. However, French students must pass the notoriously difficult BAC in order to be admitted. And there are no long graduation ceremonies (so I guess now we know where all our tuition money goes… #boringcommencementspeakers.)