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Newly arrived children whose mother tongue is not French are offered special support measures in school, in particular, daily intensive French classes. These measures are aimed at providing the conditions for a rapid integration into mainstream classes. There also exists a program for the teaching of languages and cultures of origin in cooperation with certain countries to allow foreign students to keep up with their mother tongue when it is not offered as a foreign language.

The Code of Education provides that “instruction is compulsory for both French and foreign children of both sexes between the ages of six and sixteen.”[1]  It further states that newly arrived children whose mother tongue is not French are offered special support measures.[2]  These measures are aimed at providing the conditions for a rapid integration in mainstream classes.  The measures apply to primary and secondary education.

The measures are described in Circular 2002-100 of April 25, 2002, on educational provisions for students who are newcomers to France and have an insufficient knowledge of French, as issued by the Ministry of Education.[3]  The Circular first requires that particular attention be given to these newcomers.  The school staff must explain to the immigrant families how the French education system functions, and how they can take part in school councils or other activities.  Schools are strongly encouraged to supply the information to the families with the assistance of interpreters or by means of a document presenting the education system in several languages.[4]

The Circular also requires an initial assessment of the student, which is conducted in his mother tongue if at all possible.  The assessment focuses on:[5]

  • The level of knowledge of the French language;
  • The skills the student developed at school in his mother tongue and how far he has learned to read and write; and
  • The experience acquired in various areas as well as personal interests, which may constitute important educational building blocks.

The Circular emphasizes that it is crucial to find out how familiar these students are with the written medium, irrespective of the particular system of writing involved and how they master certain subjects such as mathematics.[6]

The students are enrolled in daily intensive French classes for a limited period of time depending on their level of knowledge.  The aim is to achieve full mainstream integration as soon as possible, by the end of the year, or at the most two years in case the students arrived in France during the school year.  For schools to provide these intensive French classes, they must enroll at least fifteen newcomers with an insufficient knowledge of French.  Otherwise, these newcomers will be taught French by teachers paid overtime for their work.  The intensive French classes are financed by the state, which also remunerates the teachers.[7]

           

Finally, there exists a program for the teaching of languages and cultures of origin (ELCO) when the language concerned is not offered as a foreign language.  ELCO  is provided under bilateral agreements that were entered into with the following countries: Algeria, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia- Montenegro, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey. Teachers are provided and remunerated by the country of origin.[8]

For more information on France see:

Prepared by Nicole Atwill, Senior Foreign Law Specialist

April 2009

  1. CODE DE L’EDUCATION art. L131-1. [Back to Text]
  2. Id. arts. L321-4, L332-4. [Back to Text]
  3. Circulaire 2002-100 du 25 Avril 2002 sur l’organisation de la scolarité des élèves nouvellement arrivés en France sans maîtrise suffisante de la langue française ou des apprentissages [Circular 2002-100 of April 25, 2002, on educational provisions for students who are new to France and have an insufficient knowledge of French], Ministère de l’Education, Bulletin Officiel No 10, Apr. 10, 2005, http://www.education.gouv.fr/bo/2002/special10/texte.htm (external link) (last visited Apr. 8, 2009). [Back to Text]
  4. Id. § 1.2 Information des parents. [Back to Text]
  5. Id. § 2 scolarisation: Evaluation, affectation, classes spécifiques. [Back to Text]
  6. Id. [Back to Text]
  7. Id. [Back to Text]
  8. Circulaire DGESCO A1-1 No 2008-0388 of September 8, 2008, Ministère de l’Education, Académie de Nancy, http://www.ac-nancy-metz.fr/casnav/elco/elco_textes.htm (external link) (last visited Apr. 8, 2009). [Back to Text]

Last Updated: 02/28/2014