Schools in France

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Almost all French children between the ages of 6 and 16 go to school. Some children begin going to school at age 2. Many continue until they are 18 years old.

The French system begins with the ecole maternelle, or nursery school. Almost 90 per cent of French children attend an ecole maternelle for at least a year. Some families send their children to these schools when they are two years old, but other children do not attend until they are three, four or five.

Compulsory schooling begins at the age of 6. Children attend elementary school until they are 11 and then enter what is called a college. Students must stay in the college until they are 14. Then they decide whether to go to high school or technical school. In high school, students may take a program that will prepare them for university or a program that will allow them to complete their formal education in three years. About one French student in six goes to university. Technical schools offer courses that take one, two or three years to complete.

The choice of schools is very important. Some professions are open only to graduates of certain schools. The National School of Administration produces almost all of the top government employees in France. If you do not earn a place in this school when you graduate from high school, your chances of getting a top government job are almost zero.

Most French schoolchildren attend public schools. About 1 in 10 attends a private school. Most private schools are run by the Roman Catholic church.

Traditionally, children have attended school on Saturday mornings and have had Wednesdays off. This custom is dying out, however, and now some children attend school on Wednesday mornings for special classes. In some families, one child may have Wednesdays off and go to school on Saturday mornings. Another child in the family may go to school on Wednesdays and have Saturday mornings off.

Education does not end when students graduate from high school, technical school or university. French law provides that workers may take several weeks of educational leave every year. Many use this leave to improve their skills in their jobs, to learn about subjects they have not studied before or to prepare themselves for a different type of job.

. Can you suggest reasons why some schools no longer have classes on Saturday mornings?