Curriculum The System of Cycles The French curriculum is organized as a series of multi-year Cycles, during which students must acquire specific knowledge and demonstrate given competencies. The concept of Cycles acknowledges that learning occurs in a different way, and at a different pace, in every child. For example, some may be proficient readers very early, while others, equally bright, take longer. Children begin learning to read at the start of 1st grade. By the end of 2nd grade, which is also the end of a Cycle, all should be readers.
Preschool (Maternelle): 2 1/2 years through Kindergarden France's renowned Ecole Maternelle has been imitated in many countries. The French preschool is an integrated and essential first phase of the educational system. Maternelle teachers, who have the same 4-year college degree as primary teachers, have solid training in child psychology and physical development, as well as education. They begin preparing the youngest children for the work they will be asked to do later in elementary school .
Each subject and every activity in Maternelle is linked to the others. Rather than arithmetic, science and language being treated separately, the curriculum focuses on general concepts, such as logical thinking, which incorporate something from each field. For example, recognizing that learning has a physical component at early ages, the Maternelle program includes a daily gymnastic session, in which preschoolers must navigate a parcourse of balance beams, climbing structures and crawling tubes. The parcourse is specifically designed by the teacher to reinforce a concept, such as placing oneself in space: top-to-bottom, and left-to-right. Similar motions are then practiced on a smaller scale, during graphic exercises on paper. Although it wouldn't be apparent to a casual observer, the children are learning pre-writing skills. By kindergarten, they should be able to reproduce any shape in a defined space. Once actual writing begins in 1st grade they are able to write legibly, in cursive, within a few weeks. Similarly, the gymnastic sessions can be designed to help acquire mathematical concepts.
Music, art, stories, theater, puppets and field trips complement the “academic” subjects introduced during the Maternelle years. Although reading does not formally begin until 1st grade, preschoolers learn to write their own names and to recognize the names of their classmates and familiar words such as the days of the week. We will need extensive bilingual libraries and video collections , with a rich selection of preschool-level books and tapes for classroom and home use. Teachers frequently read to the class, and children can listen independently to their favorite books on audio cassette during free periods in the classroom. During their Maternelle years, they become enthusiastic “readers. ”
Another essential aspect of the Lycée's Maternelle program is socialization. The school day is highly structured, incorporating specific periods for free, self-directed play. Children learn to express themselves in a manner appropriate to the time and place, and to distinguish the difference. They are taught to respect others, and to understand the consequences of their behavior. Teachers rarely resolve disputes directly – this is something the children are encouraged to do themselves, acquiring both autonomy and a sense of responsibility and mutual respect.
Elementary School (Primaire): 1st through 5th Grades 1st grade is the middle year in the Cycle des Apprentissages Fondamentaux (ist cycle - acquisition of fundamental skills). Kindergarten and primary teachers have the same preparation and, in many cases, have taught both levels. As a result, transition from kindergarten to 1st grade is easy for the child. Reading is taught first in French. 1st grade teachers use a combined method approach based on research concluding that different people learn to read in different ways, and perhaps some of us learn in more than one way. After the first ten weeks, 1st graders also begin to read in English. They are taught to write in cursive and to read all written forms. Language skills and oral expression are high priorities. A significant part of every school day is devoted to poetry, creative writing, formal composition, speech and spelling .
The teaching of mathematics is another point of pride and renown for the French educational system. It is a global approach in which students are exposed early to a wide range of mathematical concepts: geometry, addition, subtraction and multiplication, algebra, fractions, the decimal system, etc. Each year these mathematical concepts are expanded and students' comprehension deepens. Logic and expression are always prioritized. Calculating the correct answer is not sufficient; a student must explain how the answer was obtained, and why. Logic and the ability to articulate one's reasoning are emphasized in every grade and field. Multiple-choice and true/false questions are virtually nonexistent. In all subjects, students are required to develop answers in thoughtfully organized essay form. Presentation, neatness, and respect for one's study materials are viewed as necessary preconditions for serious learning. In primary grades, students learn study methods which they will use through high school and later in university .
Middle School (Collège): 6th through 9th Grades Beginning with 6th grade, each subject is taught by a specialist whose university training differs from that of colleagues who teach primary grades. There is the equivalent of a homeroom teacher/advisor for each class. 6th graders have the choice of third language. In 7th grade, Latin is also offered. Those with proficiency in other languages such as Russian, Italian or Japanese can pursue them individually through the CNED (Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance.) Computer classes, including courses on the Internet, are offered beginning in 6th grade. Science is expanded to include biology, geology, chemistry and physics. Statistics and functions are added to the mathematics program. Students also study English literature, U.S. and world history, and geography. The 9th grade is the Orientation Cycle, designed to help students select a field of specialization for high school. At the conclusion of 9th grade, students take the Brevet des Collèges examination in French, mathematics and history-geography
High School (Lycée): 10th through 12th Grades In France, students choose a technical, professional, or pre-university high school. Lycée Français will the college preparatory track of the French educational system. In addition to preparing for the French Baccalauréat, our students obtain an American high school diploma. High school students choose one of three general areas of study for the 11th and 12th grades, corresponding to the three most prestigious Baccalauréat diplomas. Students may also choose these tracks with the International option of the Baccalaureat: S = mathematics/biology/physics/chemistry ES = economic sciences/math/history/languages L = literature/languages/philosophy
General studies continue, but approximately 50-70% of students' course work will be in classes specifically oriented toward their chosen program. For example, all students take math, but the type of math class varies according to the diploma being sought. Every course is a year in duration, as opposed to quarter or semester-length classes. Baccalauréat examinations are administered by the French Ministry of Education. Over a period of several days students will complete a 3 to 4-hour written and oral examination in each of four or five subjects. The questions are theoretical, testing the student's thorough knowledge of the field, ability to use abstract reasoning, and written and oral communication skills .
Education Sites in French http:// www.education.gouv.fr / French National Ministry of Education : information on the French education system from primary, high school and beyond. Contains practical information and numerous links. http:// www.cndp.fr / The National Center of Pedagogical Documentation provides advice and educational resources for parents as well as teachers. Parents can subscribe to an e-mail list entitled "What's New‘' (Quoi de neuf?). In the section entitled Tools (Outils), the site reviews literature for children age 2 to 11. http:// www.ciep.fr / Information and exchanges between the French education system and other education systems worldwide. http:// www.fle.fr / French as a second langage, for teachers. http:// cartables.net / lists web addresses of sites geared towards children, teachers and parents .
Sites in English http:// www.education.com : International site designed for children, parents and teachers. http:// www.accesseric.org / : A digest of thousands of articles on education published in the US. http:// www.naeyc.org / National Association for the Education of Young Children. http:// www.ed.gov : U.S. Department of Education. Bilingualism http:// www.enfantsbilingues.com / A fabulous site in French, containing topics such as language development, myths and realities of bilingualism and what parents and educators of a young bilingual child need to know. Two articles, the first one in English, "Culture shock and the problem of adjustment to new cultural environments" and the second in French, "The bilingual child: an opportunity or a burden? (L'enfant bilingue: chance ou surcharge?) by Georges Ludi, of the University of Basel are a must. http:// www.cpf.ca/index.html This bilingual site, produced by the Association of Canadian Parents for French, will provide support to American Lycée parents who do not speak any French. http:// www.ncbe.gwu.edu/about.htm The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education contains numerous documents on bilingual education in the US and provides numerous links on the subject. Go directly to the section entitled Language and Education Links, then to Bilingual Education, to find a section on Bilingual Parenting. The latter cites many articles pertaining to the daily lives of bilingual families, both at home and at school.
To Order Books, Periodicals, Music in French Books http:// alapage.com : Not well known, good choice of books at good prices and fast delivery. http:// www.chapitre.com / French site for new, used, bargain, rare and out of print editions. http:// www.amazon.fr / Easy to use if you are accustomed to Amazon in the US http://www.renaud-bray.com / Canadian site in French and English. books and NTSC French videos. http://www.multilingual-matters.com / English bookstore specialized in bilingualism and the study of languages. Magazines http:// www.bayardpresse.com / Periodicals, books, multi-media (excellent CD-roms) for children and teens. http:// www.expressmag.com / Subscription service for French magazines. Music http:// www.enfancemusique.asso.fr : Cassettes and CDs to stimulate children's imagination and creativity. .