European Education Systems

di Laura Di Masi

Let’s go and have a look, this month,  to Ireland and France education systems.


In Ireland the compulsory education lasts 10 years, from 6 to 16

The school system is as follows:

  • Primary school / National school (4-12 years)
  • Secondary School / Junior Cycle / Junior Certificate Program (12-15 years)
  • High School / Senior Cycle / Leaving Certificate Program (15 / 16-17 / 18 years)
  • Professional Training / Post Leaving Certificate Courses (Duration 1 or 2 years, after 18/19 years)

Denomination: infant classes in primary school and lasts  2 years (from 4 to 6 ).

There is no national pre-school education system.

Most children aged 4 and 5 attend primary school classes, which is compulsory from 6.

Anyway the State finances other forms of childcare, organized like kindergartens in case of children who live in rural areas or suffer socio-economic disadvantages.

Take note that to attend nursery classes is free, while for the kindergartens families have to pay.

The nursery classes have as same days as the primary school classes, with a schedule of 4 hours and 40 minutes per day, from 9.00 a.m. to 14.00 p.m. Kindergartens are opened 4-5 days a week from 9.30 a.m. up to afternoon.

Children are divided into  same age groups in nursery classes, while in kindergartens there are mixed age groups of kids.

The role of infant classes is to introduce children to formal learning, so the not-compulsory two years are still part of an integrated program covering all eight years of primary education (from 4 to 12 ).

Teachers of primary school are qualified teachers, with the same status and salary and are assigned to a specific class.

Staff working in kindergartens generally do not have specific training.


In France the compulsory education lasts 10 years, from 6 to 16 .

The school system is as follows:

  • Primary School / Ecoles Elementares (6-11 years),
  • Secondary School / Collèges (11-15 years)
  • High school / Lycées (15-18 years)

Denomination: Ecole maternelle

Duration: 4 years (from 2 to 6).

The école maternelle is not compulsory but is part of the first cycle of the French educational system called ‘Cycle des apprentissages premiers’ and it is free in public school. It is a real school environment, with teaching programs and learning activities.

Other possibilities, which do not belong to the ordinary educational system,  are given to parents with kids under 2 years.

These are welcomed at Le crèches, whose management is locally entrusted to departments for health and social affairs, to municipalities, and to other subjects always operating at local level. In addiction children can be entrusted to qualified and authorized people, who assist them at home.

Children are grouped according to different age in 3 sections: the first section is for children of 2 / 3 years; the second for children of 4 and the third one for 5 year children.

The école maternelle has an educational function and is  preparatory for primary school.

The program was defined in 2002 and is built around 5 main areas of activity:

  1. Language
  2. To live together
  3. Act and express yourself with your body
  4. Discover the world
  5. Sensitivity, imagination and creativity.

The school year begins in September and ends at the end of June, with dates set each year by the Ministry of National Education.

The week consists of 26 hours, the teachers organize the daily activities according to the needs of the children and the skills that the the pupils have to acquire and still established for each cycle.

The teachers or the pedagogical group are responsible for the regular evaluation of children’s knowledge, through a care observation. According to that  the teachers decide the progression of a pupil to the next cycle.

Moreover for each child a school booklet is kept to update progression and skills acquired by him/her.

The pedagogical group is made up of general  and specialized teachers, while the educational group consists of people who have the responsibility of a pupil or a group of pupils.

The teachers are assisted in their work by the Agents Territoriaux Specialisés d’École Maternelle (specialized territorial Agents of the kindergarten), recruited by local authorities and in possession of specific training.

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