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To navigate the French system

The digital age promotes collaboration between classes from all over the world! Here is a summary of terminology specific to the French system, which could be useful for you to make certain comparisons with the Quebec system. 

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More and more, the digital age fosters collaboration between classes from all over the world! As part of his recent stay in France, our collaborator Marc-André Girard offers us a digest of terminology specific to the French system, which can help you if necessary to make certain comparisons with the Quebec system. 

Schooling in France is compulsory for children aged six to sixteen, but schools welcome children from three years old. Even, in some disadvantaged neighborhoods, children start their schooling at the age of two! Here is the breakdown of educational levels in general for the pupil, from the age of two (cycle I):


Study levels

First degree :

Cycle I: initial learning

  • TPS: Very small kindergarten section (2-3 years old)
  • PS: Small kindergarten section (3-4 years)
  • MS: Middle section of kindergarten (4-5 years)
  • GS: Large kindergarten section (5-6 years old)


Cycle II: fundamental learning

  • CP: Preparatory course (6-7 years)
  • CE 1: Elementary course 1st year (7-8 years)
  • CE 2: Elementary course 2e year (8-9 years)


Cycle III: consolidation

  • CM 1: Middle course 1st year (9-10 years)
  • CM 2: Middle course 2e year (10-11 years)


Second degree :

Middle School :

  • 6e (11-12 years old)
  • 5e (12-13 years old)
  • 4e (13-14 years old)
  • 3e (14-15 years): obtaining the National Diploma of the patent following the successful completion of the final exams.


High school :

  • Second (15-16 years)
  • First (16-17 years old)
  • Terminale (17-18 years): obtaining the general baccalaureate.


Academy, rectorate and CANOPÉ

The Academies are the equivalent of Quebec school boards. They supervise the French schools in their territory and are divided into constituencies, therefore into sub-regions. Throughout France, including the overseas departments, there are 30 academies.

Each is led by a rectorate, whose rector is the representative of French National Education. The latter "guarantees the unity and consistency of the state's words" to the regional assemblies, led by the prefect of the regional authority. What must therefore be understood is that there are fields of competence which are shared between the Academy and the regional community, so that the management of education is assumed by the cities, municipalities and departments. and regions.

Between the academic level and the constituencies, there is the Directorate of Departmental Services for National Education (DSDEN) which regulates at the departmental level the various constituencies, education basins.

In addition, the Academy has set up a team of educational mediators who, much like the STORY Quebecois, is responsible for intervening in support of teachers. There are therefore counselors available regardless of the disciplines taught. To carry out the task entrusted to them, counselors frequently travel to schools at the request of teachers who request them. They can work individually with the volunteer teacher or go to class with the latter.

A former publisher of educational resources, each CANOPÉ has an educational resource center that ranges from various books to lend or sell to technological tools to experiment with: 3D printers, green screens, cameras, robots, etc.

It is therefore a national network whose mission is to create resources for teachers and support them in the use of these resources. There is therefore a question of operationalizing these resources and their application in schools. It also supports teachers in their appropriation of school technologies.


The Academic Delegation for Digital Education (DANE)

For its part, the DANE reports directly to the National Education and is responsible for the deployment of digital and IT resources in the schools of the Academy. It also trains teachers in the pedagogical orientations adopted by the latter.

It makes national education resources available to school staff by working more at the level of structures rather than educational counseling.

CANOPÉ and DANE work in parallel and in collaboration.


The Higher School of Teaching and Education (ESPE)

The ESPE is, in a way, a combination of the faculty of education and the normal school. It therefore trains teachers.

It maintains close links with the Academies to determine training needs, of course, but also to ensure the placement of trainees.

Note that there are about thirty ESPEs on French territory and that all future teachers must now attend.


The Higher School of National Education, Higher Education and Research (ESENESR)

It is essentially a public service training organization in education. Located in the city of Poitiers, it trains the supervisory staff as well as the senior executives of the French school, in this case the inspectors and the heads of establishments.

The training takes place on a part-time basis and includes a five-week on-site internship spread over the two years of the training.

Other professional development activities for supervisory staff are provided by the Academies in most cases.


This article is part of a series published by our author and collaborator Marc-André Girard, as part of his participation in the Laboratory of innovation and digital in education (LINE) at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.

You can read all the articles in this series here.

About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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