There are many schools in Paris for your children from the “Maternelle” to the “Lycée”. Finding your way to the right one for your child can be long and tricky. If you are just arriving or have been living in Paris for a while and wondering what your next step is (and you’ll get there sooner than you think!), here are a few questions to help in your selection.

Educational system

What educational environment do you want? A French school, a bilingual school an international school?

If you’re looking for all French courses and a total immersion, it’s fairly simple.

For young children from the age of 3, public schools (state schools) are excellent for a rapid integration to the French language and culture as your little ones are fast learners. However, keep in mind that it might be more difficult for you (J) as a parent to help your child in his/her homework or communicate with the school. Some French public schools have programs for non French-speaking children (ask your local “Mairie” or town hall for more information). Private French schools in Paris can either be affiliated (follow state programs) or not and are often religiously oriented (mostly catholic).

Where it gets a bit more confusing is the difference between bilingual and international schools (happily I’m here!).

Most bilingual schools follow the French curriculum and prepare their students to French diplomas but with a European or international option (OIB, that I followed myself, well a few years ago…). However – and that’s where it gets interesting– certain bilingual schools, such as Eib Paris or Ecole Jeannine Manuel offer a smoother transition with immersion programs for non French-speaking pupils. Primary students are given more time to adapt as they prepare their integration into the French curriculum within a year.

International schools in Paris are recommended if your stay is short or you want to keep your children in a more American or British orientation. Classes are given in English and some provide daily French courses. Pupils study for US or UK diplomas or the IB (International Baccalauréat) giving them access to international universities.

 

Grade level equivalents

Child Age FranceUSUK
3MaternellePetite sectionPreschool/Nursery schoolNursery
4Moyenne sectionReception
5Grande sectionKindergartenPrimary SchoolYear 1
6Ecole primaire or Ecole élémentaireCPElementary School1st Grade Year 2
7CE12nd GradeYear 3
8CE23rd Grade Year 4
9CM14th Grade Year 5
10CM25th GradeYear 6
11Collège6ème Middle school or Junior High School6th GradeSecondary SchoolYear 7
125ème7th grade Year 8
134ème8th GradeYear 9
143èmeHigh School9th GradeYear 10
15Lycée2nde10th GradeYear 11
161ère11th GradeYear 12
17Terminale12th GradeYear 13

Budget

State schools in Paris are free and have a good educational level. Extra charges are requested for the “cantine” (lunches) or “fournitures” (school supplies).

Private bilingual schools are more expensive but less costly than International schools. Companies or embassies often cover these expenses in their staffs’ expat package. In addition to the tuition, there are often extra costs that add up quickly (lunch, school bus, special exams…)

Personality and scholastic aptitude

Moving to a new school is already a big change as it often means leaving friends behind…So imagine how challenging it can be to integrate a school in Paris and having to adapt to a new language, new class rules and a new culture! The French system is quite different from American or English schools in terms of programs, learning methods, daily rhythm. It’s important to prepare this transition and find the educational system that will best suit your child. Moreover, don’t under estimate the commitment expected from parents and workload of private schools. They’re quite demanding and selective as they compete with other schools for top academic ranking.

 

Finding the right school is a key element to your happy expat experience. Your children will spend a lot of time there and your involvement as a parent will be very important to the family’s social integration. You’ll know that you’ve made the right choice when the first days’ fear and anxiety (especially yours!) will be replaced by birthday invitations and sleepovers.

Your turn !

For a happy switch to Paris schools, consider

  • the type of school where your child is most likely to feel good without too much pressure
  • the schooling fees in your global monthly budget
  • the availability: apply very early and in several schools until you receive at least one letter of acceptance
  • location: try finding a Paris home close to your prospective schools to keep your child’s (long) day as short as possible !

and tell me how it goes ! Can’t wait to hear about YOUR school hunting experience !