Why are so many French youngsters dropping out of school?

Every year in France 100,000 young people leave the school system with no qualifications, a new study has revealed. But why is this happening?

Why are so many French youngsters dropping out of school?
Photo: AFP
The study carried out by France's national council responsible for assessing the school system (CNESCO) showed that more than 10 percent of school pupils are leaving school without passing any exams. 
That means that they don't have their all-important baccalaureate qualification nor the French professional aptitude diploma called the CAP. 
This figure might sound high but apparently it isn't that exceptional when compared to other European countries, university researcher Pierre-Yves Bernard, who specialises in the school dropout rate, told The Local. 
But while there are trends seen across the continent in terms of which students are most likely to drop out: those coming from poor areas or a single parent family, to name a couple, there are some factors that particularly affect France.
France to crack down on school exam cheats
A Pisa study carried out in 2016 showed that France's gaping inequality between its privileged and disadvantaged pupils is dragging down the country's education system.
This has led to a trend of “absenteeism” which Bernard says “is concentrated in certain areas”. 
President of CNESCO Nathalie Mons said she believes that “we must be very vigilant about the phenomena of heavy absenteeism.”
“There are institutions where absenteeism is very high. We enter a vicious circle where students are more likely to be absent when they see others doing the same,” she added.
Another reason behind France's dropout rate is that French pupils don't feel a strong sense of belonging to their schools compared to pupils elsewhere, says Bernard. 
In France, just 40 percent of students feel like they belong to their school, according to a Pisa study, whereas the average level seen in developed countries is 73 percent. 
One of the reasons Bernard believes this to be the case is due to France's academically rigorous curriculum which can leave some pupils feeling inadequate. 
France's school system has long been accused of being elitist, in that it favours the bright pupils but leaves the rest struggling behind.
French sociologist Professor and education expert Marie Duru-Bellat, a lecturer at Sciences-Po university in Paris told The Local: “The French school system works for the best. There is a lot of grading in the system and pupils are regularly compared and ranked. Imagine how it must feel if you are bottom of the class all the time.
“Foreign observers frequently note that the French system is not very kind.”
She previously told The Local: “The problem in France for a long time has been that the curriculum is elitist. This importance on elitism is deep-rooted in the French mind-set and in our history and it is very difficult to change.
“We always think we have the best system because we think our curriculum is the most demanding. That is the broad view and it should be challenged.”
Duru-Bellat also pointed to the lack of teacher training in France. Teachers are often chosen by schools on the knowledge of their subject rather than whether they can actually teach it.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy scrapped teacher training colleges in France and although they were brought back under his successor François Hollande it i too early to know if they have had any positive impact.
“Teachers are just not trained to teach here,” said Duru-Bellet. “It's difficult to change the attitude. In France a maths teacher will say he is a mathematician rather than a teacher.”
She also said one major problem was pupils being orientated towards careers they are not suited to. 
“Students re forced to chose a profession early and often they chjose one they end up not liking and drop out.” 
Bernard also points to the fact that French students are limited in their choices when it comes to selecting subjects for their future career which can leave them feeling out of place and more likely to leave. 
Why schools are to blame for the French being so glum
Photo: AFP


REVEALED: France’s new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

School in France is far from out for summer but the dates have been released for the 2022/23 school year complete with holidays and "bridges". Take a look so you can plan your holidays.

REVEALED: France's new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

It’s the time of year children dislike most – as is traditional, rentrée in France is on September 1st this year, a Thursday, a day after teachers return to the classroom to prepare for the new term.

The 2022-23 school year then ends – 36 school weeks later – after classes on Friday, July 7th, 2023, later than in recent years and just a week before the fête nationale on July 14th.

 “My class will be almost empty the last week, families will have gone on vacation, especially if the tourist prices are considered out of vacation, therefore less expensive,” a  teacher in Paris told Le Parisien.

Another was concerned about the weather at that time of year. “The longer we get into the year, the hotter it gets. They already forecast 35C on May 18th, so on July 8th, I can’t imagine the heat in class,” she said.

School holidays in France have long been divided into three zones. Summer, autumn and Christmas holidays are taken at the same time across the whole of the country, but the winter and spring breaks are staggered according to which zone a school is in.

The educational zones in France are here 


The Ministry of Education has published a calendar planner for the 2022/23 school holidays on its website, showing the holiday periods for all three zones in France.

Image: ministère de l’éducation nationale et de la jeunesse et des sports

The calendar is available to download as a pdf, here

Notably, pupils in Zone A schools – those in Besançon, Dijon, Grenoble, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Poitiers and Bordeaux – face a longer-than-usual summer term, a two-and-a-half month stretch from April 24th to July 8th. This is a longer term than is usually recommended by education experts – longer even than the 10-and-a-half weeks at the same time last year for two zones, which was described as “a marathon” by both families and teachers.

There will be some breaks in that long run of school weeks, however. May Day and VE Day are both on Mondays next year, Ascension is on Thursday, May 18th, with schools traditionally ‘bridging’ the Friday, and Pentecôte holiday is on Monday, May 28th.

On the flipside, pupils in the same zone also get the shortest term on record in the next school year. They return after the Christmas holiday on January 3rd, and break-up for the winter holidays on February 4th.