Not content with being the fertile crescent of Western Europe, France has fared fairly well on the Organization For Economic Co-Operation And Development’s annual Education at a Glance report for 2015.
The European Union continued to push forward with the early education of children, with France being one of the few countries to start even earlier, with widespread schooling for ages 3 and 4. The universality of early education means a lower annual cost per student—the country spends $6,969 on each student, well below the OECD average of $8,008 (these numbers were not, against all odds, conjured by an 13-year-old boy with an upside-down calculator).
Early education is a crucial benefit for immigrant children, who scored much higher on the Programme for International Student Assessment tests if they had immigrated and enrolled in school before age 6 than those who immigrated between ages 6 and 10, especially in France and the United States, although the U.S. sees far lower rates of immigrant children enrollment in early education programs than France, where the practice is nearly universal.
15-year-old boys outscored their female counterparts in computerized tests, while the girls outscored the boys on pen-and-paper tests. The gap in literacy for boys was a whopping 16 points between computerized and paper tests (paper being the lower-scoring of the two), with girls conversely only seeing a 5-point drop when swapping paper for computer.
“Contrary to popular belief,” the study announces, rather self-consciously, French students spend more time on education than the OECD—by a significant amount that increases alongside the rise in grade level. In primary and secondary schooling, French élèves clocked 864 hours a year against the average of 804 hours, and college students in France tallied 991 hours versus the 916-hour average.
Possibly concurrent with popular belief, French primary students spent the lowest number of days in school than any other OECD-surveyed nation, limboing under the average of 185 days a year with 162—a number that, while low, is still higher than the pre-reform 144 school days in a year.
France has one of the highest percentages in the OECD for time spent on “fundamentals”—i.e. reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The former two represented 37% of schooling in France, and the latter accounted for 20%, well above the OECD averages for fundamental learning.
Overall, more and more French students finish a bachelor’s degree at least, taking a 20% completion rate among 55- to 64-year-olds (a group with a 25% average in the OECD) and rising the number to 44% for 25- to 34-year-olds, safely above the OECD average of 41%. Those who completed their second-cycle secondary educations (lycée, roughly analogous to high school in the U.S.) could expect to make 53% more than their contemporaries who ditched out after collège (middle school plus a little high school in the U.S.). An impressive 40% of French people 25-34 had completed higher levels of education than their parents, with higher than OECD average numbers across secondary and post-secondary education.
The French still trail the continent in English proficiency, however.