Education — France

In France, there is the possibility of educating children in a public-state school or a private school.

State schools are free. Children are normally admitted to the school in their catchment area, which is often the school closest to where they live. If you wish to send your child to a school other than the one corresponding to your commune or country of residence, you must apply for a "dérogation" (special dispensation).

Overview by age

2-5 years 6-10 years 12-14 years 15-18 years > 18 years
Primary or elementary level Secondary level Post-secondary level
State pre-elementary education*
(Ecole maternelle)  Obligatory schooling as of 3 years old.

State elementary (primary) education
(Ecole élémentaire)

Lower secondary ("first cycle") education
Upper secondary ("second cycle") education
Universities, engineering and commercial schools, higher technical schools, etc.

*From the age of 2 and subject to availability in the 1st day of the start of the school year.

In France, the education system is organised nationally, under the responsibility of the Ministry of National Education.

The communes run nursery and primary schools, whilst the collèges (lower secondary schools) are run by the General Councils of the Departments and the lycées (upper secondary schools) by the Regional Councils.
Schooling is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16.
The school year lasts 36 weeks and runs from the beginning of September to the end of June or early July. Children can attend school from the age of 3 or even 2, depending on the availability of places.

The school system consists of the following levels:

  • primary or elementary level (nursery and primary school)
  • secondary level: "first cycle"  or lower secondary (collège) and "second cycle" or upper secondary (lycée)
  • post-secondary level (universities, engineering and commercial schools, higher technical schools, etc.)

Children who do not have French as their mother tongue are admitted within the normal school structure.
However, in the framework of special measures for children who have recently arrived in France, classes designed to bring them up to scratch in French are provided at primary level.
At secondary level, the Lycée / Collège International in Ferney-Voltaire provides classes in French as a foreign language and special maths lessons.
The international sections at the Lycée / Collège International in Ferney-Voltaire are designed to facilitate the integration of foreign pupils into the French education system.

International schools in Pays de Gex

The Lycée / Collège International in Ferney-Voltaire, which is a free state school, offers pupils the option of following other national curriculum courses, in which case a financial contribution is required.

Private schools in Pays de Gex

There are 3 private pre-elementary and primary schools in the region.


The information and orientation centres provide information about study programmes, professional/vocational training and individual course and careers advice for schoolchildren and their families.