School education in France is highly structured and state controlled through the ministry of education, although some private schools do exist, many of which are catholic. At age 6 children are required to enter école élémentaire
primary school to study the first 6 grades of their education. Some will have already entered kindergarten as young as 3. Here 1, or perhaps 2 teachers guide them through a curriculum including French, humanities, maths, and science to mention just a few.
The first 4 years that follow are spent at collége
junior high where they hope to achieve their brevet des collèges
certificate, although this is not required for further study.
Their final four years are spent at lycéé
high school preparing to pass their baccalauréat
or “bac” which is necessary to enter university. There are different kinds of theory-oriented diplomas. Série scientifique
focuses on natural sciences, physical sciences and maths; série économique et sociale
on economics and social sciences; and série littéraire
on French, foreign languages, philosophy, history, geography and optional arts.
More practically-orientated students prefer to follow a different education route through the final 4 years of their school education. They may choose between studying for a baccalauréat technologique
which prepares them for professional higher studies, or abaccalauréat professionnel
that readies them to enter the job market immediately through vocational training.
There are two kinds of universities in France, namely public universities for which any baccalauréat
is sufficient, and grandes écoles
that set higher standards. As a consequence, many public universities are overcrowded with students in their initial year. While these lower-order institutions do not specialize at undergraduate level, they may cooperate with others when it comes to graduate study. Grandes écoles
, on the other hand generally focus on a single theme such as engineering or business science. Tuition costs at all tertiary institutions are low, and health insurance free through to age 21.
The origin of the University of Montpellier seems lost in the mists of time, and it may have even descended from gallo-roman
schools. Its official founding date is 1289 though, in terms of a papal bull issued by Pope Nicholas the 4th