French schooling abroad is provided by a network of schools recognized by the Ministry of National Education and Young People. It offers French children living abroad the chance to enjoy schooling similar to that of children in France. French schooling abroad also contributes to our country’s attractiveness by promoting France’s language and culture. Through French schooling abroad, France is fully committed to serving comprehensive diplomacy and our nationals abroad.
For the academic year 2022-2023, the network of French schools abroad is made up of 580 schools recognized by the Ministry of National Education and Young People, in 139 countries worldwide. It is a major soft diplomacy tool and helps to make France more attractive in the educational, cultural, scientific and economic fields. It also supports French expatriate communities and the expansion of French companies abroad.
The network is made up of schools with various statuses, recognized by the government that guarantees their quality. Since 1990, it has been coordinated, monitored and supported by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), a public agency supervised by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. The AEFE fulfils French public service education roles in support of the children of French families residing abroad, promotes educational cooperation and contributes, by teaching foreign pupils, to the influence of the French language and culture.
Half of those who take their baccalaureate in this network (almost 15,000 annually) undertake their higher education in France, and the networking of former pupils of France’s schools abroad seeks to ensure their ties with France endure.
139 countries – 580 schools – 392,000 pupils (AEFE)
Speech by Emmanuel Macron at the Institut de France on ambitions for the French language and multilingualism (@Elysée)
The plan to develop French schooling abroad was presented in October 2019, following the 2018 announcement of ambitions for the French language and multilingualism. The overarching aim of this plan is clear: doubling pupil numbers in the schools making up the recognized network of French schools abroad by 2030. With a baseline of 350,000 pupils in 2019, the aim is for there to be 700,000 in 2030.
Four strategic priorities have been identified to this end:
1. Attracting more pupils by making our schooling opportunities more attractive, by capitalizing on and consolidating the strengths of the French schooling abroad model (pre-school level, international French baccalaureate, multilingual education, use of digital technologies).
2. Foster the growth of the current network and the creation of new schools through a pro-active policy to encourage and support initiatives, particularly from the private sector, by diplomatic posts and the dedicated AEFE department.
3. Better involve families in the running of schools, which are almost all private and in which parents make a major contribution to funding and operations.
4. Better support the network through greater involvement by embassies. Alongside the AEFE, the central role of which has been reaffirmed, diplomatic posts are responsible for local coordination and have drawn up strategic education plans to focus their action in the local context, such as on prospection, protection and promotion.
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the network continued to grow: from 495 schools in 2018, it grew to 581 following the interministerial recognition committee meeting in June 2022. Between 2019 and 2022, the network gained 71 schools and 40,000 pupils. That growth needs to be stepped up, given the aim of doubling pupil numbers, but it remains remarkable given the two pandemic years.
The network of French schools abroad adapts constantly to changing needs and opportunities. The AEFE, working closely with embassies and their cooperation and cultural action network, relies on many contact points and partners, including the members of parliament representing French nationals abroad, associations of parents and former pupils, representatives of personnel, French and local higher education and training partners, and educational institutions of the countries where the network is present.
Other actors also play a key role in French schooling abroad, such as the French Secular Mission (MLF), a historic civil society actor in the sector that was created in 1902 and is a partner of the government. The MLF is present in 37 countries and runs 108 schools, teaching more than 61,000 pupils.
Another example is AFLEC, the French-Lebanese Association for Education and Culture, which was created in 2000 with a regional focus. It is primarily active in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
The development of the network of French schools abroad is also driven by the emergence of new actors, including private companies:
- HOLGED (Holding Générale d’Éducation) is present in Morocco and Tunisia. It has several schools with national and international curriculums (bilingual and trilingual).
- International Education Group (IEG) has 10 schools in the Netherlands, Morocco and Ethiopia.
- Odyssey is a French private school network with 12 schools in as many countries: Albania, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Italy, Kosovo, Morocco, North Macedonia, Romania, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
- CSI (Cité Scolaire Internationale) has two recognized French schools in Senegal.