The French school system abroad: a unique network in the world

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French school in Pondichery - Photo : MAE/ La Mure

The French education model abroad

  • Over 480 primary and secondary schools located in 130 countries provide French education to 310,000 students, 115,000 of whom are French, in line with the standards of the French Ministry of Education. These officially approved establishments impart universal values such as tolerance, openness, humanism, equal opportunities and critical awareness.
  • They prepare students for the French state examinations of the brevet and baccalauréat.
  • The network’s teaching structure allows students of all levels to move from one approved establishment to another, or to a public or private school contracted to the French State, without having to sit an entrance exam.
  • Given that they belong to a vibrant international network and are open to cultural and linguistic diversity, French primary and secondary schools provide particularly rewarding education.

A diversified, attractive and open network

  • French educational establishments have a variety of management methods and most operate under local laws.
  • Each year, the network’s student numbers increase, both due to the schools’ recognized high standards and the growth in the numbers of French families living abroad.
  • French educational establishments abroad are open to both children with French nationality living outside of France (about 40% of the total enrolment) and foreign children (60%). These establishments play a key role in promoting mobility and expatriation and are an effective means of welcoming and teaching young people from all backgrounds in an international French-speaking environment.

The network at a glance

  • Over 480 establishments in 130 countries
  • 310,000 students, including 115,000 French students
  • Almost 13,000 baccalauréat candidates annually: 95% pass rate, 2/3 of which with honours
  • Over 6,500 permanent staff from the French national education system, expatriates or residents
  • 20,000 locally-recruited staff
  • 50 foreign languages taught

Approval required to join the network of French education abroad

All approved establishments are open to French children residing outside of France and can also take in other nationalities. They follow the same curriculum as that of public establishments in France and prepare for the same exams and qualifications. Approval also guarantees compliance with the French education model and the quality of teaching provided. Finally, French students attending approved establishments means that they are eligible for scholarships.

This approval is not granted on a permanent basis, so the relevant establishments must regularly undergo a verification procedure to ensure that they are fully complying with criteria. The Agency is responsible for helping to examine the approval applications and their subsequent monitoring.

Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE)

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French school in New Delhi - Photo : MAE/ La Mure

The AEFE, a public establishment under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, coordinates and manages the French education network abroad and has two missions: to ensure that there is continuity in the public education service for French children outside of France and to help spread French language and culture abroad. This school network which is unique in the world is made up of 480 establishments with over 310,000 students in 130 countries. The quality and consistency of the teaching provided in these establishments as well as its values are what makes this network, which is the largest of its kind in the world, so unique.

Excellence, sharing, influenceThe teaching provided within French primary and secondary schools is innovative, open to the culture and language of the host countries and teaches foreign languages from kindergarten onwards. It prepares students for their future as multilingual and multicultural citizens and actors in open societies. The establishments in the network must thus reconcile a French-style education with international-standard teaching, promotion of the French language with the development of multilingualism, and teaching which gives all students an opportunity to succeed with a demand for excellence. The results are a testament to this excellence, with a baccalauréat pass rate of 95%, 2/3 of which are with honours.

An asset for France

This educational system, which can be found in almost all countries and capitals of the world, is acknowledged as a major stakeholder in French presence abroad. By taking in and training almost 200,000 foreign students, it continues to play a key role in spreading the culture, language and values of France. The French school network abroad also helps to strengthen cooperative relations between French and foreign school systems. Furthermore, it plays an active part in promoting French higher-level education and more broadly, France’s overall appeal. Finally, it is a valuable asset in the policy of supporting the mobility of French communities and the international development of companies.

Former students, a stake in the future The French educational system abroad is extended through an alumni network which aims to maintain bonds of friendship and solidarity between all the people who have passed through it. This network is estimated to contain 600,000 alumni and has the potential to be hugely influential, as many alumni, both French and non-French and across the generations, hold distinguished positions in a wide variety of activities: politics, the economy, higher education, the media and culture. These people are the best ambassadors for our educational model and often forge strong links with the French language and culture. Some well-known alumni of the system include Carlos Ghosn (Lebanon), Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt), Ingrid Betancourt (Colombia), Jodie Foster (United States), Marjane Satrapi (Austria), Jonathan Littell (United States) and Atiq Rahimi (Afghanistan).

“French first-language” Programme

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French school in Nairobi - Photo : MAE/ La Mure

The French first-language (Français langue maternelle - FLAM) programme is designed for French children and those with dual nationality, whose parents are living, on a temporary or permanent basis, in a foreign non-French speaking country and who are attending local schools.

This programme is now run by the AEFE.

Language and cultural courses are organized on an extra-curricular basis for groups with at least ten French students, including those with dual nationality, from the last year of nursery school (grande section) up to secondary school level.

To find out if there is an FLAM programme in your country of residence, you can contact the French Embassy’s Cooperation and Cultural Action Service.