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International Schools in France

A guide to International Schools in France including the pros and cons

Schools and education in France - an important issue

If you are moving from the UK to live in France for whatever reasons, and you have children of school age, the question of education will loom very large in your planning (French Education System - Schools in France). Most people are aware that, in terms of social integration and language learning (Learning French), the younger the child, the less of a worry relocating to France will be. Children of under about eight will usually adjust very quickly, and should flourish in the caring low pressure environment of nursery and primary education in France, but the process of adjustment is quite different for older children. Being taken from a system that you have known all your life, and finding yourself in an alien environment and expected to study and socialise in a language that makes no sense to you is immensely stressful, and can prove a step too far for some teenagers.

French state schools

French state schools can be very large and intimidating places, with little of the pastoral care that characterises good English schools. Of course, these French state schools are not bad (French education is considered one of the best in Europe), just different, but the pressure to achieve academically is high and there can be a lack of understanding regarding the needs of non French speaking children. (Starting School in France.)

School options in France

Fortunately, those who move to France with children have several choices regarding schools. Should you decide that the state system is not suitable for your child (from personal experience I would say that this could be anything after the end of primary school i.e. eleven upwards), then you may like to consider the following options:

1. Home schooling in France

This is one possibility. The advantages of home schooling are that you can continue to teach your child in English, and work at a pace that suits your child's individual needs. You can receive support from distance learning organisations too, but there are disadvantages. Your child will take much longer to achieve fluency in French, for example, without the daily interaction at school, and may also suffer socially as the opportunity to meet people and make friends with contemporaries is so much less.

2. Private education in France

This is another option, and can prove very effective as an alternative for many. France has many private schools throughout all its departments, with several in most large towns. They tend to be smaller, with a better teacher to pupil ratio than state schools, and can be more able to tend to individual needs such as non French speakers. They are, however very much French schools, and all lessons are taught in French, all tests done in French and all exams taken in French. The ultimate qualification that is worked towards in these schools is the French Baccalaureate. There are fees for these schools, although they are nominal and don't begin to compare with the sort of fees payable at English private schools. (French School - experiences of a 14-year-old.)

3. Lycées with an International Section

Some lycées (a lycée is roughly equivalent to sixth from college in England) offer an international section for Baccalaureate students. This means that extra tuition is given in certain languages that are studied to A Level standard (English being a common choice) and extra weighting given to the subject in the Bac. The bulk of the lessons, however are still taken in French and the Baccalaureate is still the French one, with the International Option as an addition. This is known as the Option Internationale Baccalaureate, and carries extra value, but must not be confused with the International Baccalaureate (see below).

4. International Schools in France

The final option is an International school. France has a good number of these spread the length and breadth of the country, with the highest concentrations unsurprisingly in Paris (Paris Property Guide) and the Côte-d'Azur (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Property Guide), both areas that attract a lot of British and other foreign nationals.

What is an International School?

An International School is a school that teaches in both English and French usually, and sometimes in other languages as well (commonly German and Spanish) depending on demand in the area. The schools can cover all age ranges from nursery level to completion of the Baccalaureate at age nineteen, and generally work towards an International Baccalaureate. They may also offer International GCSEs or work to the English National Curriculum and offer English GCSEs and A levels. Certain schools in France, such as Marymount School in Neuilly sur Seine, or the American School of Paris, work within the American education system.

Where are the International Schools in France?

International Schools can be found all over France, but are most usually located in areas that have a high ex-pat population, particularly in areas where there are sizeable international businesses operating who employ a large and often fluctuating foreign work force. Bordeaux (Bordeaux Property Guide) is one example of this, as its extensive wine trade means that there are many international business concerns in and around the city, and Toulouse (Toulouse Property Guide), with its massive Airbus employee population is another. Not surprisingly, both cities have excellent International Schools.

Twenty five International Schools in France

Other areas with International Schools include Bearn, near Pau (Pau Property Guide) in the south-west of France (South-west France Property), Lyon (Lyon Property Guide), Grenoble (Grenoble Property Guide) and Strasbourg (Strasbourg Property Guide). The area with the most International School facilities is Paris, with lots of options and, in the south of France, in the Côte-d'Azur, where there are no fewer than twelve schools catering for the huge English speaking and international community. At the time of writing there are around twenty five recognised International Schools operating in the country.

Who goes to International School in France?

International Schools in France cater for anyone who wants to attend, so long as they are able to study in the prescribed language or languages and are able to pay the fees. The schools also usually require applicants to have reached a certain standard of academic achievement, and may request recent results, reports and examples of written work, depending on the age of the student. These establishments are particularly popular with the children of families whose parents have relocated to France for business reasons, rather than those whose families have moved to seek a better life. (Life in France.)

International Schools in France - how much will they cost?

As the schools are private, the fees are subject to change and vary considerably according to the dictates of the individual school. At the time of writing (academic year 2007 to 2008), the fees for the International School of Toulouse begin at 5,730 Euros (plus a registration fee of 600 Euros per child) at age four, rising gradually with the age groups to 15,315 Euros (plus 600 Euros for registration) at age 16 to 19, i.e. sixth form level. Nice International School (Nice Property Guide) sets its day fees at 8,888 Euros to 12, 460 Euros. Boarding facilities are usually available at these schools, but there is an additional charge for this.

Check hidden costs of International Schools in France

If you are considering sending your child to an International School in France make sure that the figure shown on the websites or application pack actually is inclusive, as sometimes there can be extra costs such as meals, bus transport for day students, boarding accommodation fees and initial registration charges. You may also be asked to submit a non returnable fee with the application form.

Are International Schools in France worth it?

That is the million dollar... or British pound... question, and only you can decide. Most of these schools do reach high standards of academic excellence, and due to their relatively high fees, can afford good equipment and highly qualified staff. There is a contrast to be made here with French private schools, which in general, although the staff are usually excellent and dedicated, cannot afford very much in the way of modern equipment and often appear to be crumbling away somewhat. Fees at these schools, however, are more likely to be in the region of 300 Euros per term, including lunches and transport!

Advantages of International Schools in France

International Schools in France seem to offer an ideal solution for certain groups of people. Older teenagers will certainly find it better to be able to continue an English language education and to remain within an English curriculum and exam system. Children whose parents are likely to travel also benefit, either because they can stay on at the school as boarders when their parents move on and therefore not suffer the disruption to their education that would otherwise occur, or because they are able to move from one International School to another in a different area or even country and remain within the same educational system.

Disadvantages of International Schools in France

There are, however, also disadvantages which should be considered. Children who are not immersed totally in a French speaking environment will take longer to learn the language, and may not integrate as well into French society as those who attend local French schools. Friendships may be harder to forge and easier to lose in International Schools too, as there tends to be a more transient population of students. The fees also have to be considered, and this can become a real issue if you have more than one child.

In conclusion...

In conclusion, it seems that if your child is younger than 15, and you are planning to settle permanently in the area you have chosen in France, it is probably better to put your child into the French system, allowing him or her to repeat a year if necessary in order to develop the French language skills. This way it will be easier for your child to establish a locally based social network that will last beyond school days, and to become fluently bi-lingual quite quickly. However if your child is fifteen or older, and does not have a good grasp of French, or if you are not planning to remain in France or in the area in which you are currently living, then an International School will offer an easier transition and possibly more continuity of education. A list of International Schools in France can be found on http://france.english-schools.org/.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Jobs in France
Brits in France
Living in France
Health care in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

your questions...

1. A question about reviews on International Schools (added 29/3/12)...

We are relocating to Aix en Provence in May (once the US schools are out) and are looking for international small based schools. Our children are half French/half South African, eleven and eight years old, and have been educated in both the American (we have been living in the States for two years) and South African private schooling system. Are there any reviews on the International Schools by parents and or students themselves, and how would one go about receiving this sort of feedback. Many thanks.

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I would contact the schools concerned in your area to see if they can provide "references" for their school. Or it may just be a matter of searching the internet for reviews, as well as asking in forums. Total France is a good forum for most things.

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