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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Primary education


5.Primary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

In France, elementary education (CITE 1) is mainly provided in Écoles élémentaires (Elementary schools), which admit children between the ages of 6 and 11. Schools groups called Écoles primaires (primary school) that combine preprimary and primary institutions also exist.

It marks the start of compulsory schooling, and is secular and free of charge when dispensed in State schools. In 2016, primary education represented 4,220,000 pupils in France, of which 14,4% were in private institutions (RERS 2017).

The Ministry of National Education is the responsible authority in primary education (curricula, teachers, etc.). Primary schools’ buildings belong and are managed by municipalities.

According to article L321-3 of the French Code of Education, primary education ensures the acquisition of the primordial tools of knowledge: oral and written expression, reading, mathematics and problem solving. Primary education should help develop an artistic sensibility, manual skills, physical and athletics abilities. It has to give pupils elements of history, geography, sciences and technology. It has to provide the teaching of at least one modern foreign language. Finally, along with the family, it teaches the moral and civics education to ensure an accomplished citizenship.

Primary education spans over 5 academic years. Teachings follow an unique curricula that is developed over 2 cycles, the fundamental teachings cycle (Cycle 2) and the consolidation cycle (Cycle 3). The consolidation cycle continues over to the lower secondary education and ends at the end of the first year (Sixième). Curriculas were reformed in 2015, along with the renewed Common core of knowledge, skills and culture.

The fundamental teachings cycle

  • 1st year: preparatory class (CPcours préparatoire);
  • 2nd year: first year elementary class (CE1cours élémentaire 1);
  • 3rd year: second year elementary class (CE2 - cours élémentaire 2).

The Consolidation Cycle, which comprises:

  • 4th year: first year intermediate class (CM1cours moyen 1);
  • 5th year: second year intermediate class (CM2cours moyen 2).