In France, the definition and implementation of educational policy are the responsibility of government, within the general framework established by the legislator which, pursuant to the Constitution, sets the general rules applicable to the education system. The State's role, through its ministers, remains key in the governance of the education system. Not only is it in charge of elaborating education policies but also of recruitment, training and remuneration of teaching staff and funding of educational activities. It also guarantees consistency of training - school programmes are designed and set at the national level.
After the central reform, conducted from the 1980s onward, local authorities have acquired a certain number of competences hitherto exercised by the State; they contribute to governance of the education system in particular through management of technical personnel, operatives and school institution service personnel. The new fields of competence of local authorities are listed in the law no. 2004-809 of 13 August 2004 relating to local freedoms and responsibilities.
NOTE: Following the defeat of the candidates of the Socialist Party – which represents the majority in the Parliament and which supports the current government - in a large number of municipalities in the municipal elections of March 2014, the President of the Republic François Holland gave to a new Prime Minister (M. Manuel Valls) the responsibility of forming a new government. M. Valls appointed one Minister to both national Education (ISCED 0 to 3) and Higher Education and Research. Therefore, the two Ministers which previously governed the education system (the Ministers for national education and the Minister for Higher Education and Research) have been merged.
The organisation chart of the new Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research is being updating. The information presented in this page still refers to the situation as before the government’s turn over (March 2014).
Organisation of education's central administration
The State administers the education and training system through two departments: the Department for Education and the Department for Higher Education and Research.
The two ministries have joint authority over part of Education's Central Administration:
- the Education and Higher Education Mediator - whose mission is to refer cases to the administration to revise a decision (e.g. claims by parents, pupils or students, adults in training) on the operation of the Department's and institutions' central departments;
- the senior civil servant for defence and security - who coordinates defence, vigilance, crisis prevention and emergency situation policy;
- the Internet use delegation - which proposes measures needed to amplify the development of the information society for the benefit of all and everywhere;
- the General Secretariat.
The General Secretariat comprises:
- the human resources general directorate;
- the financial affairs directorate;
- the legal affairs directorate;
- the assessment, planning and performance directorate;
- the European, international relations and cooperation directorate;
- the communications directorate;
- the administrative and modernisation unit;
- the technology and information systems unit.
The central administration also includes three inspection bodies:
- the Inspection générale de l'éducation nationale (IGEN - general education inspectorate) directly reporting to the Department of Education, with expertise, managerial and assessment functions;
- the Inspection générale de l'administration de l'éducation nationale et de la recherche (IGAENR - general education and research administration inspectorate) which covers education (from nursery school to university) and research, reporting to the two Departments;
- the Inspection générale des bibliothèques (IGB - General library inspectorate) - a control and advisory unit directly reporting to the Department of Higher Education and Research and available to the Department of Culture and Communication for libraries falling under its jurisdiction.
Department for National Education
The Department for National Education intervenes in the fields of school education, from nursery school to upper secondary education (lycée).
To elaborate and implement its policy, the Department of Education is assisted by:
- a series of directorates, units and offices comprising the central administration of its Department. These are mainly directorates and units reporting to the Minister's Private Secretary's Office (BDC) and the General Directorate of School Education (DGESCO) and the General Secretariat;
- general inspection bodies (IGEN and IGAENR);
- consultative bodies, like the Haut Conseil de l'Education and the Conseil supérieur de l'Education (Education Councils).
In addition, the Department for Education supervises (sometimes jointly with other Departments) eight national public establishments linked to education: Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique (INRP), Centre National de Documentation Pédagogique (CNDP), Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance (CNED - National Center for Distance Education), Centre National des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires (CNOUS - National Centre for University and School Affairs), lOffice National d'Information sur les Enseignements et les Professions (ONISEP),le Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Qualifications (CEREQ), le Centre International d'Etudes Pédagogiques (CIEP) and l' Union des Groupements d'Achats Publics (UGAP).
The Department for Higher Education and Research
The Department for Higher Education and Research comprises the Direction générale de l'enseignement supérieur et l'insertion professionnelle, Direction générale de la recherche et de l'innovation and all directorates reporting to the General Secretariat.
It is also supported by general inspection bodies (IGANER and IGB) and other structures that it administers jointly with the Department of Education.
State's fields of competence - school education
The Department of Education is responsible for:
- the definition of training possibilities, setting national curricula, the organisation and content of teaching;
- the definition and issuing of national diplomas and collation of university grades and titles;
- recruitment and management of personnel reporting to it (school heads, teachers);
- distribution of resources dedicated to education to ensure equal access to public service;
- control and evaluation of education policies, with a view to ensuring a consistent education system as a whole.
The State implements its education policy on the regional level through the académie and rectorat systems. The académie is an administrative district that corresponds, in most cases, to a region's territory. There are 30 académies in France, covering 26 régions. The rectorat is the directorate of Educational departments at the académie's level. It implements the nationally-defined education policy in the académie. It has authority over primary schools (nursery and elementary schools) and secondary schools (collèges and lycées). The académie and rectorat are managed by a Recteur or chief education officer, a senior civil servant chosen from university staff holding a State doctorate. He or she is appointed by the President of the Republic, by decree taken at the Council of Ministers. The representative of the Minister of Education in the académie, he or she is responsible for Education in his or her district and also has a competence with respect to private education under contract. His or her powers extend to all levels of education (primary, secondary and higher).
On the local level, the State's educational policy is rolled out in the départements, through the Directeur d'académie. It manages the organisation of schools, personnel, mainly in primary education, school affairs and life, the organisation of examinations and admission exams, etc. Appointed by Presidential decree, after proposal by the Minister of Education, the Directeur d'académie acts as the Department Director of Education's services.The Directeur d'académie is the recteur’s delegate at departamental level. He or she implements, at departamental level, the education strategy defined by the rectorat. This concerns the primary and secondary schools of the département (Decree n°2012-16 of the 5th of January 2012).
State's fields of competence - higher education
The Department of Higher Education and Research is in charge of:
- elaborating and implementing higher training (definition of curricula, approval of national diplomas);
- organising and providing initial training for primary and secondary school teachers;
- preparing the breakdown of financial and personnel resources in higher education institutions;
- steering negotiations of contracts signed between the State and higher education institutions supervised by the Department;
- managing the higher education property assets policy;
- organising and funding doctoral training and schools;
- elaborating research policy and orientations and ensuring its implementation;
- supervising research organisations and French schools overseas;
- ensuring the valuation of public research results and technological partnership with business;
- internationally defining measures needed to found the European higher education area and promote the international opening of higher education courses. The Department is also involved in research and technological development programmes funded by the European Union and monitors their performance;
- It is competent in areas of university life (living conditions, professional integration), continuing training and university libraries.
Since the 1968 (Faure law 68-978), institutions reporting to the Department of Higher Education, i.e. public institutions and scientific, cultural and professional institutions (universities, schools and external university institutions, teacher training institutions, French schools overseas and major institutions) enjoy educational and scientific, administrative and financial autonomy. Since law 84-52 or "Savary" law of 1984, autonomy is exercised within the framework of a contractual policy with the State: each higher education institution signs a multi-annual contract with the state, negotiated and agreed on the basis of the institution's project, in which it sets out its strategic development choices. Initially limited to the research sector, the contractual policy was extended in 1989 to all aspects of the institution's life (management of financing and human resources) and has been gradually broadened to all public higher education institutions.
Upgraded and boosted in 1998, then in 2007 in law no. 2007-1199 relating to universities' freedoms and responsibilities, this policy is at the heart of dialogue between the State and higher education institutions. It allows institutions to assert their identity while complying with a consistent national policy. It gives concrete form to the will to build a new way of steering national higher education policy, by relying on the autonomy and empowerment of institutions
At the regional level, the central administration is represented by the recteur (chief education officer), who acts as both the representative of the Minister of Higher Education and as "University Chancellor".
- As a representative of the Minister for Higher Education, the recteur has hierarchic and administrative management and coordination functions with respect to higher education institutions. He or she ensures circulation and application of ministerial directives and, in return, informs the minister about the operation of institutions. He or she is in charge of coordination between the different universities in the same academy and between higher education and other educational institutions.
- As Chancellor of Universities, the recteur has a specific intervention and control function with respect to autonomous institutions: within the board of trustees of institutions, he or she can refer a request to cancel an institution's authority's decisions which seem illegal to the administrative court.
National consultation bodies
Different structures are in charge of giving their opinion to guide decision-making bodies.
Haut Conseil de l'Éducation (H.C.E.)
The Haut Conseil de l'Éducation was established by the guidance and planning law for the future of schools of 23 April 2005, article 14. It is an independent consultative body.
Le Haut Conseil de l'Éducation consists of nine members designated for six years. Three of its members are designated by the President of the Republic, two by the president of the National Assembly, two by the president of the Senate and two by the President of the Economic and Social Council, excluding members of those bodies. The president of the Haut Conseil is appointed by the President of the Republic from the council's members.
- give an opinion and make proposals on the definition of indispensable knowledge and skills that pupils need to master by the end of compulsory education;
- make an annual appraisal of the results obtained by the education system, in particular with respect to objectives on coverage of the common base;
- give an opinion and make proposals, when requested by the Minister of Education, on questions relating to teaching, curricula, pupil knowledge assessment methods, organisation and results of the education system and teacher training;
- determine the specifications of teacher training.
Conseil supérieur de l'Éducation (C.S.E.)
It is chaired by the Minister of Education or his/her representative. It consists of teacher, teacher-researcher, other personnel, parent, pupil, student, local authority and association representatives.
The Conseil supérieur de l'éducation is a consultative body required to give opinions on:
the objectives and operation of educational public service;
programmes, examinations, issuing of diplomas;
all questions of national interest relating to teaching or education.
Comité technique paritaire ministériel (C.T.P.M.)
It includes an equal number of department representatives and personnel representatives designated by the unions.
It discusses major guidelines and the distribution of resources. It is competent in all questions bearing on:
- the organisation and operation of departments, institutions or units;
- programmes to modernise work methods and techniques and their effect on the situation of personnel, statutory rules;
- the examination of major guidelines to be defined to accomplish the department's tasks;
- hygiene and safety issues;
- plans setting multi-annual objectives to improve women's access to senior management positions.
Conseil territorial de l'Éducation nationale
It is composed of representatives of the state, regions, departments, communes and public intermunicipal institutions.
It may be consulted for any issues interesting local authorities in the education field. It is kept informed about initiatives taken by local authorities and it makes recommendations designed to promote equality of users with respect to education public service. It invites personnel and user representatives to contribute to its work.
Commissions administratives paritaires nationales (C.A.P.N.)
Joint administrative commissions comprise an equal number of department representatives and personnel representatives.
Instituted by personnel bodies, C.A.P.Ns are competent in terms of tenure, transfer, rating and promotional issues and for individual issues.
Commissions professionnelles consultatives (C.P.C.) du ministère de l'Éducation nationale (Consultative professional commissions of the Department of Education)
Each C.P.C. includes persons qualified by their professional activity or work and representatives of government authorities, employers and employees.
These commissions are assigned by the minister to give their opinion and make proposals concerning:
- the definition of school, continuing vocational, apprentice training to prepare for the functions and positions of the various activities;
- the diversity of training needs at different levels;
- the consistency of training programmes with qualification objectives.
No technological or vocational diplomas may be created or modified without approval from these commissions.
Conseil national de la vie lycéenne (C.N.V.L - National council of lycée life)
Chaired by the Minster or his/her representative, the C.N.V.L. includes 30 representatives of lycée pupils elected within each lycée academic council and three representatives of the C.S.E.
The C.N.V.L. is the structure that allows lycée pupil representatives to be informed and to dialogue with the Department of Education.
Conseil National de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche (CNESER)
The CNESER has 61 members representing personnel (29), students (11) and "national interests, namely educational, cultural, scientific, economic and social (21)". It gives the Minster of Higher Education its opinion on the main guidelines concerning higher education: planned reforms, training architecture, distribution of endowments between the insitutions, etc.
In addition, the conference of university presidents brings together all the presidents of universities and public scientific, cultural and professional institutions reporting to the Department of Education. It studies all issues interesting those education institutions, presents proposals to the minister and gives its opinion on the questions submitted to it.
Conférence des présidents d'universités (C.P.U - Conference of University Presidents)
The C.P.U represents the joint interests of the institutions it brings together: universities and technological universities, National Polytechnic Institutes, Ecoles Normales Supérieures, Instituts des Sciences Appliquées, Grands Etablissements and Pôles de Recherche et d'Enseignement Supérieur. A player in the public debate on higher education and research in France, it is one of the government's interfaces on university issues.
Observatoire national de la Lecture (ONL - National Reading Observatory)
Established by an Order of 7 June 1996, the Observatoire National de la Lecture is an independent organisation reporting to the Department of Education. Its mission is to gather and use scientific data available in order to enlighten teaching, improvement of reading and educational practices, study learning problems encountered by children, favour the exchange of information and experience between scientific partners, professionals and parents, analyse educational practices and gather information on ongoing measures and experiments, make recommendations to improve initial and continuing training of teachers to prevent illiteracy and develop the diversification of appropriate teaching practices.
Observatoire de la laïcité (Secular Observatory)
The Observatoire de la laïcité, created by Decree no. 2007-425 of 25 March 2007, assists the Government in its action aimed at upholding the principle of secularism in public service. As such, it brings together data, produces and commissions analyses, studies and research to enlighten public authorities on secularism.
It may be consulted by the Prime Minister or Ministers on legislative or regulatory texts.