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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: 17 June 2022

Curriculum, Subjects, Number of Hours

Collège curricula define, for each cycle, essential knowledge and skills that should be acquired  by the pupils as well as methods that should be understood. They form the national framework within which teachers organise their teaching while taking into account each pupil's learning rhythms.

A new curriculum was developed and came into force since September 2016 (curricula for the cycles 2, 3 and 4). This new curriculum was created along with the new common core of knowledge, skills and culture that was planned in the law no. 2013-595 of July 8, 2013 for restructuring schools.

Elaboration of Curricula

Since the law no. 2013-595 of July 8, 2013 came into force, the creation of a new curriculum is coordinated by a new body, 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 Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is incorporated into technology education. An ICT and internet certificate (B2i) was set up in order to validate the acquisition of a set of skills in the usual techniques in information and communication.

With regards to Modern Languages, the new curricula are designed according to the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). Since the 2016 academic year, the second foreign language starts in Cinquième (and not in Quatrième as it used to be).

Moreover, since September 2016, institutions are given a weekly hour endowment that depends on the cycle the pupil is in (3 hours in Sixième for the 3rd cycle, 4 hours in Cinquième, Quatrième and Troisième for the 4th cycle) which is not allocated to a specific subject but to complementary teachings. In Sixième, it consists of 3 hours per week of personalised support, which main objective is to “foster personal fulfilment and the construction of the pupils’ intellectual autonomy” as well as to allow “specific support of pupils, the ones with great learning difficulties in particular” (annex of law no. 2013-595 of July 8, 2013).

Since September 2017, collèges are able to offer a wider range of facultative classes. Bilingual classes are reopened to allow pupils to learn two languages as early as the sixième. In cinquième, a new teaching of European language and culture is created, reinforcing foreign language learning for pupils. In cinquième, pupils are able to have up to two hours of regional language and culture. Finally, Latin and old Greek are reinforced as well: with one hour in cinquième, and up to three hours in quatrième and troisième.

In Cinquième, Quatrième and Troisième, pupils have 4 hours of complementary teachings per week, that are shared between personalized support (1 to 2 hours per week) and enseignements pratiques interdisciplinaires (EPI – interdisciplinary practical teachings, 2 to 3 hours per week). Consisting of at least two distinct subjects, EPI allow the pupil to build and deepen knowledge and skills that are inscribed in different teaching curricula. At the national level, 8 topics were given:

  • Body, health, well-being and safety;
  • Culture and artistic creation;
  • Environmental transition and sustainable development;
  • Information, communication and citizenship;
  • Antiquity language and culture;
  • Foreign or regional language and culture;
  • Economic and professional environment;
  • Sciences, technology and society

However, since the 2017/218 academic year, teaching staff may decide to distribute the allocated time to complementary teachings (AP and EPI) as they see fit. Teaching staffs may also decide on how EPI are organised: the number of EPI during the school life of pupils and the themes are no longer imposed. Schools that are satisfied with the current system are perfectly able to keep it functioning the same way.

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 collège, we find the same conditions that are valid in primary school , except for the fact that with collèges (public), the départements - and not the municipalities- provide the pupils with schoolbooks (in most cases). 

There are no recommended teaching methods at the national level beyond the curricula. Finally, contrary to primary school, there is no ban on homework for pupils.