Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Educational guidelines


4.Early childhood education and care

4.3Educational guidelines

Last update: 5 March 2024

Steering documents

For children below 3 years of age

The National Framework for the Reception of Young Children (2017) - which includes a National Charter for the reception of young children intended for professionals of home-based and centre-based childcare settings -  defines the main principles of the care of children from 0 to 3 years old.  However, it does not constitute a regulation which defines the compulsory activities to be carried out nor their organization (time allocated to each).

Each childcare center develops its own pedagogical project which must be approved by the departmental authorities for maternal and child protection. The educational activities are therefore developed by the managers of each structure. They are also detailed in the approval request made to the general council of the départment - necessary condition for the opening of the structure.

For children that are 3 or more

According to Article L311-3 of the Code of Education, the curricula define, for each cycle, the knowledge and methods that must be assimilated. The curricula for pre-primary education are defined nationally by the Conseil Supérieur des Programmes (CSP - Higher Curricula Council). This council is made up of members of parliament, representatives of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council and ten qualified persons appointed by the Minister for their expertise in the education system. The CSP is consulted by the Minister of Education and makes proposals on the general design of the teaching provided in pre-primary education. The proposals, reworked if necessary by the Ministry's services, are submitted for consultation with teachers and inspectors, then for the endorsement of the Higher Council for Education. Finally, the proposals are validated by the Minister.

The program currently in force at pre-primary school is defined by the decree of July 17th, 2020.

Areas of learning and development

As the content of the educational programmes for children under the age of 3 is specific to each centre-based childcare settings  there is no information available on the areas of learning and development for this age range.

In pre-primary education, the programme set up by the Ministry of Education is divided into five main areas of activity:

  1. Mobilize language in all its dimensions


  • Dare to enter into communication;
  • Understand and learn;
  • Exchange and reflect with others;
  • Start thinking about language and gain phonological awareness;
  • Listening to writing and understanding;
  • Discover the function of writing;
  • Start producing writings and discover how they work;
  • Discover the alphabetical principle;
  • Start writing on your own.
  1. Act, express yourself, understand through physical activity


  • Act in space, over time and on objects;
  • Adapt your balance and your movements to varied environments or constraints;
  • Communicate with others through expressive or artistic actions;
  • Collaborate, cooperate, oppose.
  1. Act, express yourself, understand through artistic activities


  • Develop a taste for artistic practices;
  • Discover different forms of artistic expression;
  • Live and express emotions, formulate choices;
  • Draw;
  • Practice decorative graphics;
  • Make plastic, flat and volume compositions;
  • Observe, understand and transform images;
  • Play with your voice and acquire a repertoire of nursery rhymes and songs;
  • Explore instruments, use body tones;
  • Refine listening;
  • Practice some performing arts activities.
  1. Build the first tools to structure your thinking


  • Construct the number to express the quantities;
  • Stabilize the knowledge of small numbers;
  • Use the number to designate a rank, a position;
  • Build first knowledge and know-how with rigor;
  • Using numbers;
  • Studying numbers.
  1. Explore the world


  • Time;
  • Space;
  • Explore the living world;
  • Explore matter;
  • Use, make, handle objects;
  • Using digital tools.

To this program is added the educational health course defined by the circular of January 28, 2016. This course makes it possible to explain what is offered to students in terms of health at school and district level, in close articulation with their territory. It is organized around three axes:

  • Health education: it describes the skills to be acquired at each stage of schooling in order to allow each future citizen to make informed choices in matters of health;
  • Prevention: prevention approaches implemented at school and establishment level, bringing together local players with reference to public health priorities;
  • Health protection: this axis includes approaches related to protecting the health of students implemented in the school and the establishment in order to provide students with the most favorable environment possible for their health and their well-being.

There are no regulations specifying the number of hours to allocate to each teaching activity.

Pedagogical approaches

Each centre-based childcare setting for children under the age of 3 chooses the teaching methods as well as the material necessary for their implementation, in compliance with the health standards established at national level (Public Health Code).

According to the curricula detailed by the decree of July 17th, 2020, the pre-primary schools organize specific learning methods (learning by playing, learning by thinking and solving problems, learning by practicing, learning by remembering and memorizing).

There is no state control over the production of school books. The state sets the national curriculum for educational content for all levels, and publishers freely develop educational materials based on this curriculum. In addition, there is no national policy regarding school supplies for this level of education.


There are no national regulations for the assessment of children under the age of 3. The observation of children is based on principle n°9 of the National Framework for the Reception of Young Children (2017) "Participatory, evolving and caring reception methods, to support the intelligence in movement of children”. Each structure, in its educational project, includes observation times and meetings to discuss practices collectively.

In pre-primary education, two tools allow teachers to monitor pupils’ progress against the expected levels of achievement established in the teaching program:

  • A learning follow-up notebook filled in throughout pre-primary education, at a suitable frequency according to the pupil's age. This document provides information on learning achieved at the end of pre-primary education and follows the child in the case of a change of pre-primary school.
  • A summary of the pupil's achievements, drawn up at the end of the last year of pre-primary education. The purpose of this synthesis is to facilitate the continuity of the pupils' school path when they move on to elementary school. Pre-primary teachers provide this summary to the teacher council, according to a national model set by the decree of December 31st, 2015. The table to be completed consists of a list of competencies for each of the five learning areas for which teachers determine whether the child:
    • « fails to succeed yet »,
    • « is on the way to success »
    • « often succeeds »

Transition to primary school

The pedagogical team and parents are informed about the skills and knowledge acquired by the child. They receive a summary of the child’s achievements drawn up at the end of the last year of pre-primary education by the teacher.