There are two types of lycée – lycée générale et téchnologique and lycée professionelle, known as a lycée pro.
Roughly speaking, the lycée générale leads to a bac général and is for those students intending to go on into higher education while the lycée pro is more vocational and geared to students who want to get a job straight after school. They will study for a bac pro in three years or un certificat d’aptitude professionnelle (CAP) in 2 years including hands on experience in business and industry.
Alongside lycée, there are other professional options such as apprenticeships.
Lycée générale et téchnologique
Pupils study for the bac and at the end of their first year in lycée choose between the general and technological streams.
Those choosing to do a bac général then choose between a:
bac S (science)
bac L (literary)
bac ES (social sciences)
Although all students continue to study a range of subjects throughout their three years at lycée, different subjects carry a greater percentage of their overall marks in the bac according to what their specialist subjects are.
In the Technological stream, pupils specialise in either:
Health and Social Care (STS2)
Industrial Science and Technology (STI)
Laboratory Sciences (STL)
Information Technology and Business Admin (STG)
The BAC, taken at the end of terminale (though some papers are taken in seconde), is the students' passport to higher education. Those not passing their bac may get a Certificat de fin d’études secondaires (CFES), basically a school leaving certificate but which does not grant automatic admission to university.
Students who narrowly miss obtaining their bac can take a further oral exam, the épreuves de rattrapage, to try and achieve the 10/20 pass mark. Children can also opt to re-sit their final year if they completely fail the bac.
Students passing their bac can go on to university, or study for a Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS) or a Diplôme de Métiers d’art (DMA).
Academically gifted students may also be encouraged to take post-bac preparatory classes for entrance to the prestigious higher education institutions known as the grandes écoles, These classes, available in specialised lycées, are called classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (CPGE).
Those attending a vocational lycée study for two years during which they spend 12-16 weeks doing work experience outside of the lycée.
Those opting for an apprenticeship centre spend a large part of their time in industry and are paid a wage, linked to the national minimum wage. Their school studies are continued either at school or during apprenticeship placements. More information, in French, French, here.
Your child's conseil de classe will recommend which type of lycée your child is best suited to at the end of troisieme/college, although you can contest its decision.
Generally, a student will then attend their local lycée générale or pro, as long it offers the course they want to do. In some cases, however, a child may need to go further afield to find the course they wish to pursue and if this means travelling some distance they may prefer to weekly board, which is not uncommon at lycée level.
Not all lycées offer boarding facilities but it is also possible to board at one lycée and attend another in the same town. More about boarding here.