The French Baccalauréat System – Better Than Ours?

15 September of 2014

The baccalaureate often known in France colloquially as le bac, is an academic qualification which French and international students take at the end of the lycée (High School).

In order to get into university all French students must have a baccalaureate, however at the ages of 16 you can choose either a general baccalaureate, a specialist, a technical or a professional baccalaureate, all of which are much more vocational.

  • Baccalaureate L – this focuses on literature and language
  • Baccalaureate ES – aims itself at economic and social sciences
  • Baccalaureate S – is a science based version

However regardless of which one you choose, all pupils will study French, history, geography, a foreign language, philosophy, maths and science and then marks are weighted towards their specialist areas that they have chosen. They in turn equivalent to British A levels.

Unlike British A levels or Scottish Highers, the baccalaureate system comes in the form of a unitary exam that pupils with either pass or fail. You cannot pass in one subject and fail in others, students must achieve a 10/20 in order to pass.

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Between the ages of 16-17, regardless of the specific bac course they are undertaking, students will study French, history, geography, a foreign language, philosophy, maths, and science. Marks are weighted towards their specialist areas.


Besides completing their coursework, high school seniors in France must take a gruelling series of year-end exams, known collectively as the baccalaureate, or le bac. Adding to the pressure, students know they won’t be admitted to top French and British universities unless they ace these tests, no matter how good their grades were during high school.

Many French people believe that broad education until 18 is the right way to do is as they understand that many people at the age of 16 do not know what they want to do with their lives. This essential overview of most subjects will then give pupils a broad preparation for an uncertain future.

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Pascale Garrec, deputy head at the French Lycée, in west London, the only school in Britain to teach the French baccalaureate, believes that: “The French believe it is better than the English education system. When your pupils are aged 11 to 15, many are bored and thinking about leaving school with very few exams to their name. But we teach pupils to enjoy learning. The school work prepares them for jobs or for further studying.”

England only have around 6% of children in private schools where as in France it is over 20%- does this make a difference as to why children in France are getting higher grades than England? However more and more people are turning to private English tutors to get their child through English GCSE and A Level. Should we consider switching our classic approach of A Levels for the French baccalaureate system? It would offer a broader secondary education than the current GCSE and A-level system. But the question is; is broader is better.

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Some people believe that it isn’t suitable for Britain because it would be too demanding for many pupils. Not to mention the conundrum that is could pose on universities as the baccalaureate system is so board that it lacks the necessary depth in order for the student to study it at university, giving a large gap in the educational difference of the baccalaureate and university.


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