9. French Lycée - Upper Secondary School

  1. Types of Lycée
  2. General/Technological Lycée
  3. Vocational/Professional Lycée
  4. Baccalaureate Exam
  5. School Choice

9.2. General and Technological Lycée

The study period at lycée is 28-35 hours per week, depending on the year and course of study. In addition pupils are expected to undertake a large amount of homework.

Those pupils who attend a lycée général et technologique study for the Baccalauréat (BAC), more precisely, either a baccalauréat général or a baccalauréat technologique.

Students can go on to university, or study for a Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS) or a Diplôme de Métiers d’art (DMA).

Pupils at certain specialised lycées can also undertake post-baccalaureate preparatory classes for entrance to prestigious higher education institutions, called grandes ecoles, where an entrance exam is normally required. These classes area called classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (CPGE).

Mainstream lycée education consists of three years of study, structured around two learning ‘cycles’, as follows:

Table: Cycles of Learning

Age Cycle Class
15-16 Cycle de détermination 2nde
16-17 Cycle terminal 1ere
17-18 Cycle terminal Terminale (T)

Prior to 2019, in their second year students who opted for the général route selected from one of three main specialist streams:

  • Economics and Social Sciences
  • Literature/Languages
  • Sciences

Since September 2019, these streams have been abolished, in favour of a more uniform system, but with specialist options available to the pupils.

The aim of creating specialist options is to give pupils a more personalised education and equip them better for entry into university, as these are the subjects they will be expected to then study.

Although there have been some changes to the curriculum, in the first year the curriculum follows a broad general education, which allows pupils to develop their knowledge of and interest in a range of subjects, before they make a decision on greater specialisation.

In the second and third years pupils then divide into either the ‘general’ or ‘technological’ streams. If the performance of the pupil has been satisfactory, then they will be granted the choice of the stream and specialist area they wish to study.

However, you should not assume that your child has complete freedom as they may be refused admission to a particular stream or specialism if their class performance in the first year is not considered satisfactory.

Indeed, towards the end of the first year, some pupils maybe asked to transfer from the 'general' stream to the 'technological' one, or be asked to take the first year again, or even to leave lycée for vocational study.

The basic first year core curriculum commencing for both streams is as follows, subject to minor variation:

Lycée – Year 1 Curriculum

Subject Hours
French 4h
Maths 4h
Modern Lang 5h30
History/Geog 3h
Physics/Chem 3h
Eco/Soc 1h30
Life/Earth Sci 1h30
Civics 18h per year
Physical Recreation 2h
Information Tech 1h30

The most significant change to the core curriculum is the greater emphasis on information technology.

In addition, up to two specialist subjects are available, one general and one technological (although not in all schools). There are 4 hours of classes each year for each of the specialist subjects.

The 'general' subjects are: Arts, Cinema, Dance, History of Art, Music, , Theatre.

The 'technological' subjects are: Management Studies, Health and Social Studies, Biology-Ecology, Laboratory Science, Engineering Science, Creation and Technological Innovation, Creation and Culture & Design, Latin or Greek, Modern Languages.

In the 'Technological' stream pupils take much the same core curriculum (with maths) but specialise in one of several main areas, which remain unchanged:

  • Health and Social Sciences (STS2)
  • Industrial Science and Technology (STI)
  • Laboratory Sciences (STL)
  • Information Technology and Business Admin (STMG)
  • Hotel and Restaurant Sciences (STHR)
  • Arts and Design Science (STD)

There are also two agricultural streams (called (STAV)) that can be followed, and applied arts and music and dance (called TMD).

At the beginning of the first year there are two tests in French and Mathematics, to better establish the ability of each child and to plan supported learning.

There are 54 hours of support to assist pupils with their specialist choices, including a discussion about a possible career/higher education path and external visits to universities or businesses. These normally take place during a week in the first semestre and one in the second. This also takes place in the second and third years.

Pupils need to select three specialist subjects going into their second year, with one dropped going into their final year, with up to two 'optional' subjects also available. The choice of specialist subjects is critical, as the two taken in the final year will form part of the final exam for the baccalaureate.

However, many schools are unable to offer the full range of options, so there is concern about the inegalities that arise. In addition, a school cannot run a specialist subject for only a few pupils. As a result, some schools are collaborating on some subjects, so that a pupil may be obliged to attend a different school to take it, or to simply attend a different school for all classes.

It is not unusual that pupils who start out in the first year on a planned course of study decide to change at the end of the first year, not only the proposed course of study, but the lycée itself!

Whilst the pupil is free to choose the stream into which they wish to proceed, the lycée will offer a formal recommendation at the end of the first year on the stream they consider most appropriate.

In the second and third years pupils start to specialise, although this should not be overstated, as they are required to continue to undertake a range of core subjects.

In short, pupils receive a broadly based education, the aim of which is to prepare them for higher education.

In November 2022 the government announced that from September 2023 the core curriculum will include a compulsory 1.30 hours of maths each week, in both the final two years. We await details of the final revisions to the curriculum.

Lycée Général – Year 2 Core Curriculum

Subject Hours
French 4h
Modern Langs 4h30
History/Geog 3h
Sciences 2h
Civics 18h per year
Physical Recreation 2h
Three Specialist Subjects 12h

The core curriculum is much the same in the final year, with philosophy substituting for French and two rather than three specialist subjects.

Lycée Général – Year 3 Core Curriculum

Subject Hours
Philosophy 4h
Modern Langs 4h
History/Geog 3h
Sciences 2h
Civics 18h per year
Physical Recreation 2h
Two Specialist Subjects 12h

There are no obligatory classes in mathematics after the first year in the general stream, although available as a specialist subject, and French is not obligatory in the final year. In place of individual science and mathematics subjects there is a trans-disciplinary 'Enseignement Scientifique' for two hours a week.

The specialist subjects for years two and three are: Arts, History/Geography/Political Science, Humanities, Literature and Philosophy, Latin or Greek, Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, Mathematics, Information Technology, Life and Earth Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Economic and Social Science, Physics/Chemistry.

There are also optional subjects that can be taken, for up to three hours a week in the second year and six hours in the final year: Arts, Agronomy, Latin or Greek, Sports Education, Equitation, Modern Languages, Life Sciences, Mathematics, and Law.

Next: Vocational/Professional Lycee

Back: Types of Lycee

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