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Living in France

Finding an apartment, Finding a school, finding a job


Finding a School

Choosing the right School

Finding the right school is undoubtedly one of the top priorities of any expatriate moving to France with their kids, and consequently “Living in France” continues to be inundated with questions on the subject. A big question for many parents is which language they want their child to be taught in. Should the school you choose be bilingual, multi-lingual, monolingual… or just plain old French! Much of what is on offer will depend upon your particular circumstances, and here we offer you further information on international schooling to help guide you through the maze of options available.

If you are looking at the possibilities in France for schooling in English then a good starting point could be to contact ELSA FRANCE. This is a non profit making association composed of schools which offer advanced programmes of study in English and they aim to provide up to date information on the subject; just the kind of information that could prove very helpful on arriving in a country where you are not familiar with the education system. When living abroad, a whole new dimension is added to the prospect of finding a school which is suitable for your child’s needs.

Presuming that the option of boarding school in your home country has been ruled out then the usual questions still need to be addressed:

- Would it be a great inconvenience to travel a long distance each day in order to do the school run?

- What suitable transport services are available to make life easier?

- Do you prefer the private or state education system? If you prefer single sex schools, you will almost certainly have to opt for the private sector.

- What facilities and extra curricular activities does the school provide? Consider what is available after school if you are both working full time.

- What is the total cost going to be when everything is included; lunch, transport, after school activities .?

The added dimension.
Most parents would find the idea of their child becoming bilingual appealing. Coming from an English speaking country you may be inclined to integrate your kids into the French system while they are still young – this way the possibility of them learning French quickly becomes a reality. However, even if one or both parents speak English, you may find that as children get older their French becomes increasingly dominant and their fluency in English deteriorates. So it may be wise to choose a school which is either wholly bilingual or one where a significant number of hours are taught in English. To get a clearer idea of which language is most commonly spoken within a school, it is a good idea to find out what percentage of the students are anglophone, francophone or anglo-french. Bear in mind that the number of hours taught in English can vary greatly, and may be few, even in schools which describe themselves as bilingual. An increased number of hours taught in English may, in turn, increase the school fees.

Whether you are intending to stay in France for a temporary or indefinite length of time it is important to think in the long term. For example, you may prefer the idea of your child being integrated into a French school, from a cultural point of view, but your child may wish to go on to further education in your home country. In this case you should consider whether the school will equip them with the necessary qualifications to do so. Some schools which may not run on an entirely international basis still offer students the opportunity to take an international option such as the British or American national curriculum. The International Baccalaureat (I.B) itself is taught all over the world and is widely accepted as a valid entry qualification for many foreign universities. In addition to this, the French Baccalaureate has a demanding ‘Option Internationale’ (O.I.B) which is a fully bilingual program and enables its students to go on to higher education in France or abroad.

Whatever your particular circumstances, the options will be narrowed down immediately by the age of your child and their level of French.

Paddy Salmon, the Pres ident of ELSA highlights some of the difficulties that parents can face: “French Primary schooling is, generally speaking, of a very high standard. Where young children are concerned, if the parent wants the child to be integrated into a fully French system regardless of the fact that they don’t speak the language then this is still a perfectly feasible option. The problem comes after the age of about eleven (sixième) the first cycle in secondary school. If the child speaks none or just a small amount of French then it can prove to be too much for the student to cope with, unless they are exceptionally bright or have a real aptitude for languages.” He goes on to say however that: “Some schools at Secondary level offer clear, well resourced programs, commonly known as ‘Français Langue Etrangère’. This provides the student with intensive teaching in French in order to facilitate the integration process into the mainstream curriculum”.

Despite your desire to immerse your child in French culture, they might be happier in an international or monolingual school where they will still have the opportunity to learn French anyway. This is particularly so if you are planning to be in France for a relatively short time so that they can continue their curriculum without interruption.

Nevertheless, private international schools such as these do not come cheap. You are looking at anywhere between 40,000 and close to 90,000 francs per year, depending on the school year your child is in. As an expatriate you may be fortunate enough to be working in France for a company that is willing to foot the entire, or at least part of the bill for your children’s education as part of your contract. Otherwise private international schooling may not be an option simply because of its financial constraints. All is not lost ! There are a number of French schools which offer accelerated learning programmes to varying degrees while maintaining a traditional French outlook. Many are private but government recognised and supported institutions, therefore the subsidy makes the fee far more affordable. You may even be fortunate enough to be living close to a state school with an international section. These sections are usually private within the school, in which case a fee will apply, but it will undoubtedly be more cost effective than an entirely private education.
ELSA FRANCE can be contacted on: (33) 01 45 34 04 11 or by e-mail on: elsa.france@wanadoo

Issue number 11 of ‘Living in France’ provides more ‘School Talk’, including advice on how to register and detailed terminology for the education system. Get your copy by phoning us on 01 45 44 11 66

You may also find it useful to refer to the schooling section of the ‘Yellow Pages’ in this magazine, where several schools advertise.

The AAWE (Association of American Wives of Europeans) publish what is the most comprehensive guide to international schooling in France. They can be contacted on 01 47 28 46 39 at B.P 127.
92154 Suresnes Cedex.

The following is a list of a number of schools around France that offer a variety of international programs. 

The Lennen Bilingual School - 7th Paris.
Pre-primary and primary (Private ).
The educational program here is completely bilingual, that is to say that there is one English teacher and one French teacher in every class and the curriculum is divided half and half between the French and the American. Extra-curricular activities include computers and a swimming program starting at the age of four, plus a specialist pony club for five year olds and up.

The Bilingual Montessori School - 7th Paris.
Pre-primary, plus a toddler program for
2-3 year olds (Private).
Many parents choose this school for its bilingual aspect even more than for its Montessori curriculum. Barbara Porter of the school explains that the school is not “teaching” the language but rather “it is offering a bicultural experience, allowing the child to assimilate a second language in a comfortable, non-threatening fashion”. Each class is directed by a French trained Montessori directrice and an English or American assistant. The children represent 14 nationalities and many arrive speaking neither French or English.

Ecole Active Bilingue - 8th Paris.
Primary and Secondary (Private under contract with the French Ministry of State).
As an international, co-educational school it aims to teach with an exchange of ideas and cultural interaction. English classes start at the youngest age and by junior high students are taking 6-9 hours of English per week. French, British and American curriculum are all available along with exchange programs to the USA, Ireland and Hungary.

L’Ecole Aujourd’hui - 14th Paris.
Pre-primary and Primary (Private under contract with the state).
English is included as part of the program for all ages although French is the language of instruction. During the extra-curricular time open class activities allow the children of different ages to group together.

Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel -15th Paris.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary (Private under contract with the state).
About a quarter of this school is anglophone and studies are directed toward the French National and the International Baccalaurate. English is taught 10-12 hours per week and other subsiduary languages include German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Latin. On graduating, about 30% of the class leave France to study abroad.

Eurecole - 16th Paris.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary (Private and first grade under contract with the state).
Although the curriculum here is French there is daily practice of German and English from kindergarten through to secondary level. There is a strong representation of cultural diversity within the school, with 35% of the students being foreigners to France. School fees work out as 11,500 FF per trimester.

Institut de la Tour, The Anglophone section - 16th Paris.
Secondary (Private under contract with the state).
This Catholic high school offers a traditional French education but has an Anglophone section for bilingual students which has an English program of about 6 hours per week. It also runs foreign exchange programmes and students have the opportunity to study a range of languages including Japanese, Greek and Russian.

The International School of Paris - 16th Paris.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary (Private).
This is the only anglophone school in the centre of Paris which starts at
Kindergarten and goes through to secondary school. Students acquire a truly international experience and although the anglo-american and international curriculum are taught in English, students have the opportunity to study everything from French, German and Spanish to Russian, Japanese and Korean.

Institut de la Tour, The Anglophone section - 16th Paris.
Secondary (Private under contract with the state).
This Catholic high school offers a traditional French education but has an Anglophone section for bilingual students with an English program of about 6 hours per week. It also runs foreign exchange programmes and students have the opportunity to study a range of languages including Japanese, Greek and Russian.

Collège Lycée International de Balzac - 17th Paris.
Secondary (State).
Education is free at Balzac making it unique amongst bilingual schools in Paris. There are also international sections aside from the standard French curriculum with 6-8 hours per week of English in language, literature, history and geography. Facilities include computing labs, a swimming pool and a gymnasium.

The British School of Paris - Croissy sur Seine.
Primary and Secondary (Private).
The school is divided into a junior and senior section both of which offer a curriculum based upon the British national system. Students therefore study GCSE’s and A-levels after which 98% go on to British Universities. Nevertheless, the school provides a very international environment for the students, who represent more than 31 different nationalities.

Ecole International d’Etampes – Etampes.
Secondary, plus boarding (Private).
The school is multinational both in the composition of its students and the teaching body and all children are expected to take part in a three week exchange program to a foreign country. Bilingual classes are offered for up to six hours per week and there is the option of studying toward international qualifications.

Centre Actif Bilingue - Fontainebleau.
Primary (Private).
Montessori and Freinet are amongst the teaching methods used at this school where 40% of the students are bilingual. The children’s development is aided by the small class sizes and there are six hours per week of English for everyone.

Collège International de Fontainebleau - Fontainebleau.
Primary and Secondary (Private section within a French State School).
The reputation of this school draws many expatriate parents to the area. It includes an Anglophone section which represents an English speaking stream that is incorporated into a French state primary school, collège and lycée. Anglophone class sizes are small and children often go on to UK, US and French universities.

L’Ermitage - Maisons-Laffitte.
Pre-primary, Primary, Secondary plus boarding school for ages 8 – 18 (Private under contract with the state).
This is a co-educational boarding and day school situated in the delightful surroundings of the Parc de Maisons-Lafitte just 14 kms from Paris. The French curriculum incorporates a bilingual section with an accelerated learning program and offers excellent sporting facilities including a swimming pool and gymnasium as well as two highly equipped computer labs. The composition of the school is reflected in the fact that 95% of students go on to French universities.

Ecole Internationale de Marne-La-Vallée - Marne-La-Vallée.
Primary and Secondary (Private).
French is the language of instruction here but English is taught through physical, creative and artistic activities and then reinforced in a more formal context. A third language is offered at secondary level with the choice of Spanish or German. Daily physical education is held at the sports facilities at the “Centre Regional d’Education Physique et Sportive”

Marymount School - Neuilly-sur-Seine.
Primary (Private).
This is a co-educational, international school which provides quality education for students of diverse cultures, religious beliefs and abilities. The age range covered is the equivalent of grades 1-8 in the US and although the program is based on the American curriculum, French is taught daily. Spanish is also available as a foreign language and there are opportunities for a range of extra-curricular activities.

Vive l’Enface International Montessori school - Noisy-le-Roi.
Pre-primary, primary and secondary (Private).
This is a totally bilingual school which operates on the basis of the French and English National curriculum. Half the day is taught in English and half in French. Spanish is also offered for children of a good standard in both the main languages. Soccer, tennis and golf are among the extra-curricular activities which are available.

Section International de Sèvres - Sèvres.
Secondary, Primary Wednesday morning only (Private section within a French State School).
The school offers a bilingual/bicultural education allowing the students to switch between, and enjoy the advantages of both a French and an Anglophone system. As for higher education, 60% go on to French institutions and the rest to the UK and the US. Extra curricular activities include a major school production every year and numerous school excursions.

The American School of Paris - St Cloud.
Pre-primary, Primary, Secondary (Private).
There are 750 students aged between 4 and 18 who study on this 12 acre campus west of Paris. The school provides an American model of education but has adapted its curriculum to the needs of its international student community. 98% of the graduating class go on to university, two thirds of which go to the US. It offers a wide range of arts, music, drama and sports as well as a program to increase fluency in English.

Lycée International, American Section - St. Germain-en-Laye.
Pre-primary, Primary and secondary (Private section within a French State School, boarding facilities are available).
Knowledge of French is not a requirement here since there is a program called Français Spécial that enables non-francophone students to learn the language and mainstream after one year. Ted Faunce, Head of the Section explains, “The school is multicultural and multi-lingual to an unusual degree”. The American section alone comprises over 25 nationalities and the students are mixed to a large extent. The curriculum in English is ‘native level’ that is to say that it is commensurate with competitive schools in the USA.

Lycée International, British Section – St. Germain-en-Laye.
(Same as the American section above).
Like the American Section their principal objective is to make their 710 students of different nationalities fully bilingual and bicultural with an adaption program available if necessary. 75% of the curriculum is French National and the rest is British National. Everything from drama to football and a jazz band are available as extra-curricular activities.

Lycée Marcel Roby - St. Germain-en-Laye.
Pre-primary, Primary, Secondary (Private section within a French State School).
A distinctly American teaching style and culture are maintained within the traditional French educational system. The school uses American teachers, textbooks, programs and activities as part of the effort to meet the educational needs of a truly bilingual student.

Institut Notre Dame - St Germain en Laye.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary (Private under contract with the state).
I.N.D was established over 200 years ago and offers highly specialised teaching for both scientific and literary subjects. The bilingual section offers a varied curriculum taught by qualified teachers whose mother tongue is French or English. English constitutes 3-6 hours per week in grammar, literature and history.

Lycée ND du Grandchamp - Versailles.
Secondary and Les Classes Préparatoires (Private under contract with the state).
This is a Catholic high school working on the basis of the French national curriculum which prepares its students for the Baccalaureate and other international options. German, Spanish, Greek and Latin are offered as foreign languages as well as foreign exchange programmes with the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada.

Ecole International Malherbe - Le Vesinét.
Pre-primary and Primary (Private).
All activities are carried out in English but French classes are provided for non French speakers as of the age of five for six hours per week. The school uses a variety of methods but has a strong Montessori influence.

International Bilingual School of Provence - Aix en Provence. 
Primary and Secondary, plus boarding (Private).
English is the language of instruction in the international section and is used 30% of the time in the bilingual section. The school offers a host of other foreign languages as part of the curriculum: Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Latin, Greek . . . 30% of the school are boarders and roughly 55% of each class are foreigners.

Bordeaux International School - Bordeaux.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary (Private).
Students are predominantly in the secondary section of the school, where the language of instruction is English and the curriculum offered is British. The range of nationalities amongst the student body make for a very international environment.

Collège Chevrus - Bordeaux.
Secondary (Private).
The school includes an American section which seeks to develop bilingualism in children who already have a good standard of English. The section is open to children of diverse nationalities but the curriculum followed is the French national, so a good command of French is still required.

Collège Cevenol International - Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
Secondary, plus boarding (Private).
Founded in 1938, one of the main attractions about this school is its beautiful location in the Cévennes mountains, on a 40 acre wooded campus. Sports available therefore include mountain biking and skiing. History and English Literature are taught in English for the International Baccalaureate and the Option Internationale du Baccalaureate sections but otherwise the language of instruction is French.

Ecole Internationale Michelin - Clermond-Ferrand.
Pre-primary, Primary and Secondary, plus boarding facilities are available (Private under state control).
The school was created for the families of Michelin employees but it is now open to other companies and the individual. French, British and American curriculum are all on offer and teaching in English constitutes 20-25 hours per week in Secondary and 10-13 hours per week in Primary. Tuition is free for Michelin students and 22,000FF per year otherwise, depending on the number of hours in English per week.

Lycée Polyvalent International - Colommiers.
Secondary (State school with a private anglophone section).
The school has an outstanding record of academic achievement especially in the British section, but is not a suitable choice for pupils who are in France on a temporary basis. The British section itself aims to ensure that students maintain proficiency in their mother tongue while progressing through the French curriculum.

La Cité International Stendhal - Grenoble.
Secondary (Private).
At least half the students here are French and there are German, English, Italian and Spanish sections for students who either speak the language as their mother tongue or come from international primary schools. There†is a lycée and a collège on the site and the syllabus takes into account the special needs of foreign pupils who will be returning to their country of origin.

Lycée International Ferney-Voltaire - Ferney Voltaire.
Secondary (Private section within a state school).
This is a large international school with over 2000 students. Both French and British qualifications are offered and a broad variety of foreign languages including Dutch, Swedish and Russian.

Ecole Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel - Lille.
Secondary (Private under contract with the state).
Just 15 minutes from the centre of Lille, this day and boarding school is easily accessible by train from Paris, Brussels and London. Like it’s sister establishment in Paris, the curriculum is French bilingual working toward the International Baccalaureate. Bilingual classes are 3300FF per trimester, international classes are 5200FF per trimester and the boarding facilities are 15,000FF per trimester.

Cité Scolaire Internationale - Lyon.
Primary and Secondary (Private within a French state school).
The school has an Anglophone section which enrols English speaking students, whatever their nationality, but particularly those who will benefit from integrating into the French state school system. 75% of students go on to French higher education with the rest divided between American, British and other foreign institutions.

Mougins School - Mougins.
Pre-primary, Primary and secondary (Private).
The 200 strong student body study the British national curriculum at this English speaking European school. Special emphasis is placed on French, business studies and information technology and a range of extra-curricular activities are available.

Les Amis de L’Enseignement International de Reims - Reims.
Primary and secondary (State).
The curriculum is French national but there are international options at qualification level. German, Spanish, Italian and French are offered as foreign languages and History and Geography are taught in English.

International school of Sophia Antipolis - Sophia Antipolis.
Primary and Secondary (Private).
The school provides a multicultural setting in its representation of over 60 different nationalities. French is the language of instruction but many other languages are available as part of the curriculum, including Spanish, Arabic and Latin. There is a strong focus on intercultural understanding and bilingualism.

Lycée – Collège International des Pontonniers - Strasbourg. Secondary.
A bilingual education is offered for children with several hours per week in their maternal language. Therefore the foreign students are divided between the four international sections: English, German, Italian and Spanish. They have the opportunity to learn French while maintaining links with their home country and it also gives French children the chance to master a foreign language. The emphasis is on sport, theatre, media, history of art and music.

Centre International de Valbonne - Valbonne.
Secondary, plus boarding facilities (Private).
This school is situated on the Mediterranean conveniently close to a number of ski resorts and is popular with parents living on the Cote d’Azur. It caters for French children of families who are overseas, and foreigners in France, therefore there is a good interaction between the English and the French. There are various international sections which prepare students for the International Baccalaureate and the Option Internationale, plus special preparation classes are laid on for Les Grandes Ecoles.

Ecole des Roches - Verneuil sur Avre.
Secondary, plus boarding (Private).
Located in an attractive Normandy setting, this school is well known for its excellent facilities and first class sports. The curriculum consists of the French Baccalaureate and the International Baccalaur-eate in English and French. Overall it provides a bilingual atmosphere for students to work and plenty of extra-curricular activities 

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