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LIVING IN FRANCE

Strikes, health, singers and taxes: 6 essential articles for life in France

Health, taxes and - this being France - strikes are the staples of life, so we're taking a look at those in our 6 essential articles for French life, as well as some music recommendations, and weird language quirks.

Strikes, health, singers and taxes: 6 essential articles for life in France
Listening to French music can be a great way to brush up on your vocab and accent. Photo by Anna KURTH / AFP

This is an issue that’s going to run and run.

Last week thousands of people took to the streets in a wave of national strikes- with many vowing to create an autumn of chaos if president Emmanuel Macron pushes ahead with highly controversial pension reform plans. Here’s a look at what is happening and why.

‘The start of a social battle’ – what you need to know about France’s controversial pension reform

On to health matters. Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and ‘vaccine apathy’ – urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Every year in September and October the French tax office sends out bills to households across France relating to property taxes. These autumn bills are usually made up of three parts; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle.

However, system changes to all three parts mean that for some people bills will be much lower than last year, while others will have nothing at all to pay. Here, we explain what has changed – and why.

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

Important to know – if you’re living in France and you’re not a French citizen, certain scenarios can get you expelled from the country. Although this isn’t an everyday occurrence there are a wide range of offences that can see you kicked out of France. 

Overstaying, working without a permit and polygamy – what can get you deported from France?

Music can be an effective way of progressing in a language while having fun. Whether you’re a beginner in search of vocab, or an advanced learner hoping to hone your accent and learn some cool slang, these musicians will help you improve your French.

The 10 best singers to listen to if you’re learning French

Speaking of linguistic matters, have you noticed that you may have started dropping French words into your everyday English? After a while you end up speaking a weird mixture of French and English. Here are some of the most common French additions.

The 13 French words that English-speakers just can’t stop using

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SCHOOLS

‘Section internationales’: How do France’s bilingual secondary schools work?

For foreign parents in France looking at secondary school options for their children one option to consider is the bilingual 'international sections' in certain state schools. But how do they work?

'Section internationales': How do France's bilingual secondary schools work?

What is an ‘international section’

Essentially international sections in French secondary schools allow students to learn a modern foreign language, such as English or German in much more depth than a standard state secondary. These sections also facilitate the integration of foreign students into the French school system.

There are about 200 ‘International’ establishments (primary schools, colleges and high schools) around France offering international sections in 16 languages.

Most are state run, so for many foreign families they are a much cheaper alternative to private schools, though it should be noted that some of the international sections are fee-paying.

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Even state establishments can charge for enrolment into their international sections. Fees are usually in the region of €1,000 to €2,000 per year (although that’s still cheap compared to somewhere like the American school of Paris which charges between €20,000 and €35,000 a year)

American and British sections are particularly popular – and, as a result are usually the most expensive, while less-popular German sections are less costly. 

Why do they exist?

These sections are ideal for the children of immigrant families, as well as those where one parent is of foreign origin. Syllabuses are set up and developed by French educational authorities and those of the partner country.

In addition to lessons dedicated to modern languages, students benefit from lessons in another subject given in a foreign language. The international sections promote the discovery of the culture and civilisation of the countries associated with the section.

Top tips for raising a bilingual child in France

What languages are available?

According to the government website, 19 languages are available. But that’s not strictly accurate as it then lists American, British and Australian as separate ‘languages’, along with Portuguese and Brazilian. It’s more accurate to say these establishments offer education in 16 languages.

It’s more accurate to say that there are 19 “sections”, dedicated to learning with a linguistic and cultural education slant in favour of the following nations/languages:

American, Arabic, Australian, Brazilian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Franco-Moroccan, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian.

In total, there are two Australian schools, 20 American ones, over 50 British schools – most in Paris and the Ile-de-France (Versailles is very popular)

So, what’s studied – and what qualifications do you get?

As well as usual collège-level classes in core subjects, such as maths, history and the sciences, students have four hours of classes in the language, including literary studies, of their choice.

From troisième (age 14), an additional two hours of classes per week cover that country’s history and geography and moral and civic education – the latter is replaced by maths for those studying in Chinese sections.

They can obtain the diplôme national du brevet with the mention “série collège, option internationale”. The dedicated brevet includes two specific tests: history-geography and foreign language.

At lycée, students study four hours of foreign literature per week, as well as two hours of history-geography in the language of the section (maths for the Chinese section) as well as two hours of French as they study towards an OIB (option internationale du bac), often at the same time as a standard French bac.

How to enrol

The first step is to contact the collège you wish your child to attend. This should take place no later than January before the September rentree you want your child to go to the collège.

If you live in France, and your child is attending an école primaire or élémentaire, you should do this in the January of the year they would move up to collège.

Be aware, that some schools require potential students to pass a language test – written and oral – before they can enter an international section. A child wishing to enter sixth grade must be able to read books of the level of Harry Potter in English, to enter the international school of Sèvres’ British section, while another has said that only 20 percent of candidates achieve the grade that would allow them entry into an international section.

Find a school

You will find sections internationales de collège at educational academies across the country. For a full list, with contact details, click here.

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