French and American School Systems Explained

The Education Systems have Differences in their Structure

It can be a little bit daunting to navigate French and American school systems when you are not an expert or a teacher. As a parent, you simply want to understand the basic differences in class organization. However, this information can be difficult to find. So we have put together tables to help you better understand the differences between French and American education and how both systems compare.

Significant Differences
between the French and American Education Systems

Differences American French

Decentralized and consists of public and private schools

More centralized and consists of mostly public schools

Allows for greater flexibility in the curriculum, based on school type & location

Follows a more standardized curriculum defined by the French Education Ministry

Age of school startAmerican children typically start school at the age of 5 or 6French children start school at the age of 3

Places a greater emphasis on standardized testing

French education system places more emphasis on individual assessments and continuous evaluation

Emphasis on extracurricular activities

Places a greater emphasis on extracurricular activities, such as sports and music

Places more emphasis on academics

Generally more expensive with private schools in the United States often costing significantly more than public schools

Generally less expensive

Advantage to Students

Students are encouraged to develop their self-confidence & public speaking abilities.

Students develop a deeper understanding of concepts and learn to think critically.

French & American Cycles & Classes

Grades are set up according to the child’s age. This is true in both systems. However, there are many differences in terms of structure for each cycle. For example, in France, it is very rare for a child to begin school in Prek-2 because this class do not exist in most cases. The general rule is the higher in age the education cycle is, the more different both systems tend to get.

The table below compares French and American systems in terms of grades, classes and cycles. For in-depth information about both systems, please visit The French Ministry of Education page (in French) and the US education system page.

Table showing a comparison of French and American school classes grades and cycles.


In the French and American school systems, grading is different. For example, in France, students receive grades on a 0-20 scale. But in the US, grades are given on a E-A scale. Below is an example.

At The French American Academy, we practice both systems, according to the subject taught. So you would need to get familiar with both ways. If you want to know more about the grading system differences, check our blog where we have posted a full presentation to help you discuss grades with your child

Follow the links for more tips, or to discover the French American Academy’s community

French and US Grading Comparison

Frequently Asked Questions

At the FAA, we integrate the curriculum and the standards of both the American Common Core with the French Education Ministry’s rigorous standards. This defines what we teach.

What differs from other schools is how we teach and convey the knowledge. 

Specifically, we take the best aspects of each system’s curriculum & teaching methodology. For example, the American system excels in developing student’s self-confidence and ability to speak in public. The French education system on the other hand excels in giving students a deep understanding of concepts, while developing students critical thinking.

By taking the best of both worlds, students benefit from an optimized dual curriculum.


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