Expats moving to France with children will be pleased to find that the standard of education is generally high. There are a variety of schooling options to choose from including public, private, bilingual and international schools. Ultimately, parents will need to consider the language barrier, cost and curriculum when deciding which type of school is best suited to their child.

Education in France is centralised, with most public and private schools following the national curriculum set by the Ministry of education.

In France, school attendance is compulsory for students between six and sixteen, but parents often enrol their children in a maternelle (kindergarten) from the age of two. Students generally spend two or three years at this level before advancing.

Expats that can show proof of residence in France are entitled to send their child to a French public school at no cost.

With the language of instruction at most public schools being French, this isn’t the most viable option for older expat children. However, many expat parents do choose to take advantage of the free schooling option by sending their younger children to a local nursey school. At this age children tend to overcome the language barrier easily and there are very few educational demands.

As public school attendance is based on catchment areas, expats will find that schooling standards vary from one neighbourhood or city to the next. Some public schools, particularly those in more cosmopolitan cities, do offer a special curriculum tailored to non-French speakers called Section International with the aim of eventually integrating the students into the French system.

Private schools in France are either state-sponsored or privately funded. These tend to have smaller class sizes, more individualised attention, better facilities and improved access to teachers. Most private schools in France are Catholic, meaning that the curriculum incorporates a faith-based value system. 

French is the primary teaching language in most private schools. However, expats will find that there are more bilingual options in this category than in the public schooling system. Private schools are also more likely to have better-established programs to assist non-Francophone students.

Admission requirements and tuition fees of private schools in France vary considerably. Proof of residence is not usually required, but some schools may request previous school records and entrance exams. Tuition for privately funded options is significantly higher than that of state-sponsored schools.

Despite the high cost of tuition fees, international schools offer the best option for expats who want to ensure that their children have a smooth transition as well as those who are not planning to remain in France for a long period of time. These are also best equipped to accommodate high-school students who intend to attend university in their home country. 

Most international schools in France are located in its large commercial centres such as Paris. These schools tend to follow the teaching language and curriculum of their home country or subscribe to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and teach in English.

The teaching standards at international schools are exceptional and students have access to excellent facilities as well wide range of extracurricular activities. Having children at international school also allows expats to connect with other expat families in the area which often helps ease the transition into life in a new place.