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Eurydice

EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in primary education

France

5.Primary education

5.2Teaching and learning in primary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Curriculum, subjects, number of hours

The curriculum of primary education in France is based on the Common core of knowledge, skills and culture, which was implemented in September 2016. The common core identifies knowledge and skills that are to be known by every student at the end of compulsory education. It is articulated around five domains. Students acquire these skills and knowledge during the three educational cycles that cover primary and lower secondary education in France.

While the Common core covers both primary and lower secondary education, curricula that strictly concern primary education currently are provided in the curriculum of the fundamental learning cycle and in the curriculum of the consolidation cycle. Both cycles cover 3 years:

  • The fundamental learning cycle (2nd cycle) covers Cours Préparatoire (CP – 1st grade), Cours élémentaire 1 (CE1 – 2nd grade) and Cours élémentaire 2 (CE2 – 3rd grade);
  • The consolidation cycle (3rd cycle) covers Cours moyen 1 (CM1 – 4th grade), Cours moyen 2 (CM2 – 5th grade) and Sixième (6th grade), which is the first year of lower secondary education.

Development of the curricula

Two main comities are responsible for the development of the curricula. In France, curricula in school education are prepared by the Conseil Supérieur des Programmes (CSP – Higher council for curricula) upon request from the Minister of National Education. The CSP assembles a group of experts that will be tasked with developing the curriculum project, which is given to CSP in order for the council to debate and vote. The project is then submitted to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Éducation (CSE – Higher council for education) for its opinion. Finally, the project is definitely adopted by the Minister.

The CSP is composed of:

  • Three members of the parliament and three senators;
  • Two members of the Conseil Économique, Social et Environnemental (CESE – Economic, Social and environmental council) ;
  • Eight qualified personalities, directly named by the Minister (university professors, inspectors of the ministry, etc.).

The CSE is a consultative comity, directly under the minister’s authority, and is meant to give its opinion on:

  • Objectives and functioning of the public service of education;
  • Rules related to curricula, exams, diplomas and schooling;
  • Questions regarding private education and personnel of these private schools “under contract” (subsidised private education);
  • Questions regarding teaching or education on the national level, regardless of the ministry.

CSE is constituted by 97 members in plenary sessions: representatives of the personnel, users and partners of the State. Their term is 4 years, with the exception of the representatives of users and highschool students, whose term is 2 years.

The common core of knowledge, skills and culture

The common core of knowledge, skills and culture defines skills, based on knowledge regarding several domains that a student has to master at the end of compulsory schooling. In primary education (École élémentaire), a common culture is established between children during the 2nd and the 3rd cycles.

The common core is constructed around 5 main domains:

  1. Languages to think and communicate;
  1. Using the French language, written or spoken;
  2. Using a foreign language, or, as the case may be, a regional language (or a second foreign language);
  3. Using the language of mathematics, sciences and computers;
  4. Using the language of arts and of the body;
  1. Methodologies and tools to learn;
  2. The training of the individual and the citizen;
  3. Natural and technical systems;
  4. World representations and human activity.

Instruction time

Instruction time in primary education is allocated over 24 hours per week. The school year amounts to 864 hours of compulsory schooling. Instruction time by subject is detailed in the decision of November 9th, 2015.

As long as the global instruction time of each domain is respected, the weekly timetable of teachings can be altered if need be for educational projects lead by the teaching staff. Moreover, breaks of ~15 minutes in primary education are to be included in the timetable in a balanced manner over every domain of teaching.

Fundamental learning cycle

CP, CE1, CE2

Yearly instruction time

Weekly instruction time

French

360h

10h

Mathematics

180h

5h

Modern languages (foreign or regional)

54h

1h30

Physical education

108h

3h

Art education

72h

2h

Question the world

Civic and Moral education**

90h

2h30

TOTAL

864h

24h*

* 10 hours are allocated in the weekly timetable to daily activities of oral expression, reading and writing, covering every domain.

** Civic and moral education: 36 hours over the school year, meaning 1 hour per week of which 30 minutes are dedicated to practices fostering oral expression.

 

Consolidation cycle

CM1, CM2

Yearly instruction time

Weekly instruction time

French

288h

8h

Mathematics

180h

5h

Modern languages (foreign or regional)

54h

1h30

Physical education

108h

3h

Science and technology

72h

2h

Art education

72h

2h

History and geography

Civic and Moral education **

90h

2h30

TOTAL

864h

24h*

* 12 hours are allocated in the weekly timetable to daily activities of oral expression, reading and writing, covering every domain.

** Civic and moral education: 36 hours over the school year, meaning 1 hour per week of which 30 minutes are dedicated to practices fostering oral expression.

Recommended annual instruction time in full-time compulsory education in Europe

Teaching languages

In primary education, a modern language is mandatory starting the class of CP. Resources for teachers are available online to help teaching languages.

Specific courses are offered in the international framework of teaching modern foreign languages. These are optional and opened to every willing pupil in schools that propose such courses starting in CE1. Such classes amount to 1h30 per week, beyond the 24 hours of compulsory schooling. The teachers of such classes are foreign teachers that speak perfectly French, and they are provided by partner countries.

Teaching methods and materials

Law no. 2013-595 of July 8th, 2013 fosters innovative teaching methods and states a great ambition for digital teaching and teaching digital science. Moreover, the law project for the School of Trust reinforces this ambition for the digital by providing three new tools for teachers and pupils in primary education:

  • A training tool for pupils in the Fundamental learning cycle (CP – CE2) updated regularly;
  • Halved classes of CP in reinforced priority education networks (REP+) will be the target of an experimentation starting September 2019: a large scale deployment of digital tools and applications for fundamental learnings as well as new approaches of evaluation was included in the Future Investment Programme (PIA).
  • A call for projects for partnerships in artificial intelligence for learning in French and mathematics during the Fundamental learning cycle was also included in the PIA (8M€ dotation). The partnership was launched during June 2018, with the first deployment anticipated for 2020.

Individual school supplies, insofar as they are materials used by one single pupil and remain his/her property, are not free and are to be provided by families. In theory, school books, as individual school supplies, could also be purchased by parents. However, practically all communes provide pupils at public-sector schools with school books. The choice is based on proposals made by private publishers. Choices are made after consultation of the School Council. Finally, all or part of small school equipment necessary for each pupil, stationery or writing material, may be supplied by the municipality, even though this is not a generalized situation.

Excluding supplies paid by the municipal budget, pupils' school equipment list should be drafted and handed to families. School supplies lists should be as short as possible to have a slight impact of the family budget and not create inequality between pupils. Since 2007, a list of essential supplies is provided each year by the ministry of National Education. Teachers should refer to this list in order to create their own.