Heading back to school in France

la rentrée scolaire

September is not just about the wine harvest. In France, this time of year is also associated with an enduring ritual: the return to school. On 4 September, after a well-earned two-month break, primary and secondary school pupils – more than 13 million of them in total – cheerfully returned to class with a spring in their step. Going back to school is always a bit of a strange time: you might want to stretch out your holidays a bit longer, but at the same time, you are impatient to get back to your friends and meet your new teachers.

In France, schools go back in September

The 4 September date is the same for pupils throughout France. But not all countries begin the new school year in the same month. In Japan, pupils return to class in April, while for children in India, July marks the start of the academic year. The situation in France is different when it comes to other holiday periods, too, as the dates for these depend on the zone in which you attend school. Antibes, for example, is in zone B, while Lyon is in zone A and Paris is in zone C. And the return after the summer holidays, or la rentrée as it’s known in France, doesn’t just apply to school pupils, but affects a large swathe of society: there’s also a political rentrée, a literary rentrée, a university rentrée, and so on.

This is no time for improvisation!

Heading back to school requires preparation! The first thing to check is school supplies. Normally, teachers provide pupils and their parents with a list of books and equipment that students will need for class. But when it comes to buying your backpack, your pencil case, your exercise books and your pens, make sure to shop as early as possible, otherwise you’ll be joining the last-minute scramble and queues!

The French school system

In France, as in many other countries, schooling is mandatory until the age of 16. After nursery school, pupils start primary school, which they attend for five years. At the age of six, in their first year or Cours Préparatoire, children learn to read and write. When they reach 11, they enrol in collège, which lasts for four years. At the end of this period, pupils sit their first national examination, called the Brevet. Then it’s time to move up to a lycée, or senior high school, which has three year groups known as Seconde, Première and Terminale. Once they complete their lycée studies and pass the Bac (baccalaureate or final examinations), pupils (known as lycéens) can go on to higher education. Of course by this time, they will have experienced plenty of back-to-school rituals!

Junior classes at the Centre International d'Antibes

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