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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of general upper secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.4Organisation of general upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Types of Institutions

General upper secondary education institutions are called lycées d’enseignement général et technologique (lycée providing general and technological education, or LGT). They form the unique structure that provides education of the general and technological type.

The LGT comprises three years of study:

  • the first year, the Seconde générale et technologique, which is common to all of the pupils that are registered in the LGT. There are also Secondes that prepare for specific subseries of technological baccalauréat and the Brevet de technicien (BT - Technician certificate);
  • the second and third years, called Première and Terminale, where pupils follow common education but also choose education that is specific to each of the series in the general or technological path.

In addition to the LGT which depend on the Department for National Education and Youth, there are agricultural general and technological education lycées, which depend on the Department of Agriculture, which provide preparation more specifically for certain technological baccalauréats or for the brevet de technicien agricole (agricultural technician's certificate).

General and technological education lycées are "local public-sector schools" (EPLE), a category of public institutions that depends on the Department of Education. As such, they are juridical personality and have autonomy in terms of administration, finance and pedagogy, within the limits provided for by the legislative and regulatory texts. The Board of trustees (the institution's deliberating body) based on the report of the School head sets the principles for implementing the pedagogical and education autonomy that the institution has and the rules for organising it. The board approves the budget and the school project.

The material operation of the lycées (construction and maintenance of school buildings, school transport, grants for equipment, recruitment and management of TOS personnel, etc.) is provided by the regions.

Geographical Accessibility

The territory of each académie is divided into sectors and districts. Art. D211-10 of the French Code of Education establishes that "school districts correspond to the catchment areas of the lycées. The pupils in the school sectors that they group together must be able to obtain a variety in the education that is sufficient to allow for the proper operation of the orientation. However, some education and certain professional specialties, due to their specificity, are subject to locations that only correspond to catchment which is either national, common to several académies, or for the académie".

In accordance with Art. D 211-11: Collèges and lycées receive the pupils that reside within their catchment area. The académie director, head of the départemental services for National Education, determines for the beginning of each school year the maximum number of pupils that can be received in each institution according to the facilities and the means that it has.

With regards to the operation of school transport, this is organised and financed by the local authorities which define the specific regulations.

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

Admission requirements

There are no examinations to access public upper secondary education (general or professional), as the first year of lycée is part of the compulsory education curriculum.

If this is an enrolment in a private lycée under contract, the enrolment is carried by the parents directly with the chosen institution, in the orientation path decided at the end of collège.

Choice of School

The choice of the upper secondary education institution is conditioned, on the one hand by the pupil's orientation decision taken at the end of collège, and on the other hand, by the rules of the school map.

Indeed, at the end of 3rd class the pupil is directed either towards the general and technological path or towards the professional path. The orientation decision is the responsibility of the school head and is taken after the class council; it is subjected to recourse through appeal to a commission presided by the académie director.

More precisely, the pupil is directed towards one of the following programmes:

  • the Seconde générale et technologique ;
  • the Seconde professionnelle which forms the first year in the three-year preparation cycle of the vocational baccalauréat;
  • the first year of the two-year cycle leading to one of the specialties of the certificat d'aptitude professionnelle (CAP - professional aptitude certificate).

Once the orientation decision has been made, the pupil will be enrolled in the institution (general and technological lycée or vocational lycée) of his choice, according to the conditions provided for by the school map.

Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils

The general and technological lycée is organised into three years and two pedagogical cycles:

  • 1st year: Seconde;
  • 2nd year: Première;
  • 3rd year: Terminale.

Each level of education corresponds to a theoretical age group: in Seconde, the pupils are on the average 15 to 16 years old, in Première, 16 to 17 years old and in Terminale, 17 to 18 years old.

The Seconde is a common education class; all of the pupils enrolled in the general lycées are grouped together into various divisions or classes. They are grouped together into separate classes only in cases of optional education.

In Première and Terminale, the education provided includes subjects that are common for all of the pupils and subjects that form the specificity of each stream, i.e. the specific school programme that results in obtaining a particular baccalauréat. The pupil changes group-class according to the specific education that he chooses.

Organisation of the School year

The principles that apply in developing the school holiday calendar are defined by Article L. 521-1 of the French Code of Education; they are the same for the primary, lower secondary and upper secondary levels.

Organisation of the School day and week

In accordance with Article R421-2 of the French Code of Education, the secondary education institutions (collèges and lycées) benefit from autonomy in organising the school time and the methods for school life, as well as in the use of allowances in terms of education hours made available to the institution in compliance with the obligations resulting from the regulatory hours". The organisation of the school day and week therefore varies from one institution to another.

The weekly time schedule falls between 27 hours and 32 hours. The organisation of the education is based on course time sequences of 55 minutes with a 5-minute interval between classes.