It should go without saying that when it comes to studying in France, the process is somewhat different to what is expected in the U.S. On a similar level, attempting to teach in the country involves a slightly different approach. Nevertheless, both are completely possible, and this is one of the reasons why the country is so popular for Americans who are seeking this route.
Therefore, we’ll now take a look at how you should approach French from both an education and teaching perspective.
Primary and secondary schooling in the country
As you may expect, the schooling in France is somewhat different to that in the US. It is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of six right the way through to sixteen.
Just like most nations, the type of school that children attend depends largely on their families. While most will attend free and coeducational public schools, it should go without saying that the option also exists for them to opt for private ones and pay fees. In this case, the government may offer some subsidies to make the schooling more affordable.
If we look at the optional forms of education in France, this all begins when a child reaches two or three-years-old. This is where they become eligible for kindergarten – which translates as maternelle. In the vast majority of cases kindergarten will be run by the state and local authority.
As they become older, and school nears, it’s down to the parents to choose a suitable school. This must be based in their neighborhood, unless of course a private option is being pursued. To find out the options, parents can consult the city hall (translated as mairie). To complete the application process, you must bring your child’s birth certificate and immunizations, as well as your own passport and a recent utility bill.
In terms of elementary school, or ‘Ecole primaire’ as it is referred to in France, this is attended from age six right the way through to 11. As such, the process is identical to that of what occurs in the US, although the different stages are referred to differently. For example, 1st grade becomes CP, 2nd grade becomes CE1, 3rd grade becomes CE2, 4th grade becomes CM1 and 5th grade is CM2.
The next stage in the education process is collège, also known as Junior High School in the U.S. This is something that occurs from age 11 right the way through to 15. As such, it’s slightly different to the U.S. process, whereby students tend to switch to high school at 14-years-old. Once again, the different years are referred to differently; 6th grade is Sizième, 7th grade is Cinquième, 8th grade is Quatrième and 9th grade is Troisième.
As such, following the end of the collège process, students have various options. What tends to happen is that those who are more academic will progress to something called Lycée and study for their baccalauréat, which is the French national diploma which will eventually be taken when the student reaches 17 or 18. For any student who wishes to continue their studies into university, the baccalauréat is essential and therefore, so is Lycée. At this point we should also highlight that the baccalauréat is something which is accepted in most colleges around the world – including many which are based in the U.S.
For those students that opt not to progress to Lycée, they will turn to an establishment that will provide them either vocational or technical training.
Progressing to higher education in France
It may not come as a surprise to hear that France is hugely popular amongst international students; in fact, it’s the third most popular destination in the world for this purpose.
As such, the country has made it very easy for foreign students to progress to higher education. Through the French Embassy, it’s possible to utilize the CampusFrance USA service which will provide all the relevant information to American students who are looking to follow this path. This organization has close connections with the majority of U.S. colleges and universities, meaning that the application process can be made much more straightforward than in other nations.
Therefore, it’s recommended to utilize this service to its full advantage. Right from the point of choosing a course which may only teach modules in English, all the way to the application process, CampusFrance USA is invaluable for higher education students currently based in America.
Becoming a teaching assistant in France
While there are several options for teaching in France, one of the easiest ways for an American comes courtesy of the Teaching Assistant Program. This is something which is provided by the French Ministry of Education and the Cultural Services Department of the French Embassy and allows 1,500 American citizens to arrive in the country and teach English.
The aim of this program is simple; the country is attempting to strengthen the grasp of English in French primary and secondary schools. Of course, this is at two-way relationship, and those that are accepted will be able to benefit from a true teaching experience in a foreign country. Additionally, any members of the course will be paid a gross monthly salary of around 950 euros – which becomes around 780 euros following social security fees.
It should be stated that anyone who wishes to be accepted onto the program must be proficient in French, as well as holding the necessary teaching attributes that should allow them to clearly convey information to French students.
Those who are successful in applying for the program will be placed all around the country, as well as in the likes of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and Réunion.
How does the visa process work for scientists, university professors and researchers?
One of the big advantages about turning to study, or a career in teaching, in France is the favorable visa period. Any U.S. citizen (or anyone who is part of the Visa Waiver Program for that matter) does not need to obtain a visa as long as they hold a Convention d’Accueil. It’s worth mentioning that this will cover you for up to 90 days and you must show this document to a border agent when entering the country.
If you are looking to stay in the country for a longer period of time, you will require a visa. Anyone falling into this category should be advised that they will need to apply via the consulate. This will involve an appointment and unfortunately, there are no set guidelines in relation to waiting times. It means that you will have to plan accordingly and the general advice is that you should never make an appointment within three weeks of your date of travel.
If you are opting for this approach you will need to take an original, plus a copy of your passport. Your passport needs to be valid for a minimum of three months from the date you intend to leave France. As well as this, you will require proof of address, a long stay application form, an identification photograph, an OFII form (if you are staying more than six months), as well as an original and copy of the Convention d’Accueil.
If you do not wish to make another trip to receive your documents, it’s possible for the consulate to mail your visa to you as long as you provide a prepaid express mail envelope from the US Post Office.