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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.2Teaching and learning in general lower secondary education

Last update: 31 March 2023

Curriculum, Subjects, Number of Hours

The secondary school curricula define, for each cycle, the essential knowledge and skills that must be acquired and the methods that must be assimilated. They constitute the national framework within which teachers organise their teaching, taking into account the learning pace of each student. The programmes for cycles 3 and 4 in the collège were last modified on 30 July 2020.

Elaboration of Curricula

The creation of a new curriculum is coordinated by the Conseil Supérieur des Programmes (CSP – High Council for Curricula). This council is composed with legislators, members of the Conseil Économique, Social et environnemental (Economic, Social and Environmental Council), and finally members that are nominated by the Department of National Education, Higher Education and Research. 

The CSP does not create the curriculum by itself, but rather delegates this role to a group of experts, which is chosen by the CSP. It is also important to note that the Inspection Générale de l’Éducation Nationale (IGEN – General Inspectorate of the National Education) has a role in the review and modification of the curriculum.

The Department requests the CSP to create a new curriculum, the CSP makes a proposal, and if the Conseil Supérieur de l’Éducation (CSE – High Council for Education) approves, the Department definitely enacts the project of curriculuminto the Official Journal (official publication that publishes every legal modification).

Contents of Curricula

Education in collège is structured into subjects that depend on the cycle the pupil is in.

The Sixième is the last grade of the cycle of consolidation that starts in primary school. The different subjects are:

  • French;
  • Foreign language 1;
  • Plastic arts;
  • Musical education;
  • Sports and physical education;
  • History-geography;
  • Moral and civic education;
  • Mathematics;
  • Sciences & technology.

For the Cinquième, Quatrième and Troisième that constitute the furthering cycle, subjects are:

  • French;
  • Foreign language 1;
  • Foreign language 2;
  • Plastic arts;
  • Musical education;
  • Sports and physical education;
  • History-geography; 
  • Moral and civic education;
  • Mathematics;
  • Life and earth sciences;
  • Physics-chemistry;
  • Technology.

History of the arts education was introduced into the curricula for collège stemming from the reforms in 2008. This is transversal education, based on a pluridisciplinary approach to works of art which allows pupils to master cultural and historical bearings that are indispensable in understanding the works and in enriching their practice of the arts. Possibly done by all teachers of a same class, this subject is mostly dispensed by music, plastic arts and history-geography.  

The use of new information and communication technologies (ICT) is integrated into technology teaching.

As far as modern languages are concerned, the curricula are designed according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The second modern language is started in 5th grade. 

In addition, schools have a set number of hours in their timetable, depending on the cycle (3 hours in 6e for cycle 3, 4 hours in 5e, 4e and 3 for cycle 4), which are not allocated to specific teaching but to complementary teaching. In 6e, it consists solely of 3 hours of personalised support. In 5e , 4e and 3e , this time allocation is divided between individual support and interdisciplinary practical teaching.

Schools may offer more optional courses. Bilanguage classes allow two languages to be taught from the 6th grade. From the 6th year onwards, pupils can take up to two hours of regional languages and cultures.  In 5e, European language and culture is taught for two hours a week to reinforce the learning of modern languages. Finally, the teaching of Latin and Greek is reinforced with one hour per week in 5e, and up to three in 4e and 3e.

In 5e, 4e and 3e, pupils have 4 hours of additional teaching, which are divided between individual support (1 to 2 hours) and interdisciplinary practical teaching (EPI - 2 to 3 hours). Involving at least two subjects, the EPI allow students to build and deepen the knowledge and skills included in the various curricula.

Timetables by subject

Cycle3: consolidation cycle4: furthering cycle
French162h (4h30)162h (4h30)162h (4h30)144h (4h)
Mathematics162h (4h30)126h (3h30)126h (3h30)126h (3h30)
Plastic arts / Musical education72h (2h)72h (2h)72h (2h)72h (2h)
History, Geography, Civic and moral education108h (3h)108 h (3 h)108 h (3 h)126h (3h30)
Foreign language 1144h (4h)108h (3h)108h (3h)108h (3h)
Foreign language 2-90h (2h30)90h (2h30)90h (2h30)
Sports and physical education144h (4h)108 h (3 h)108 h (3 h)108 h (3 h)
Life and earth sciences144h (4h)54h (1h30)54h (1h30)54h (1h30)
Physics-chemistry54h (1h30)54h (1h30)54h (1h30)
Technology54h (1h30)54h (1h30)54h (1h30)
Complementary teachings108h (3h)144h (4h)144h (4h)144h (4h)

In this table are the intended subject instruction time during the whole academic year, and between parentheses are the intended subject instruction time per week.

Teaching Methods and materials

In the case of collèges, the same conditions apply as for primary schools. In the case of (public) collèges, it is the départements (and not the communes) that provide pupils with textbooks.

In terms of teaching methods, there are no national recommendations. Finally, unlike in primary education, there is no ban on giving homework to pupils.