A system that focuses on qualifications French high schools prepare students for a battery of exams administered by the university system called the Baccalaureat or BAC. There are several versions of these exams. Just under 80% of students who take the exams pass them, but they represent only about 61% of their age group, because 39% have opted for lower qualifications following orientation with a counsellor, or have attained no qualification. Among the 61% who get a BAC, just under half (28.5% of the age group) have studied for a degree which will allow them to enter professional life directly (vocational, technical and professional BACs), most often because they are not university material. The other half of these BAC recipients (32.4% of the age group) have obtained a general BAC, far more difficult academically, in one of three branches: scientific, literary and economic/social studies. Over 80% of those who take this exam pass it due to prior streaming and selection. The exam includes separate tests, each several hours long, in every subject area studied (please see "academic program" below). Scores are multiplied by coefficients, then added and averaged to get the overall score which must be above 10 out of 20 to pass. (see "grading system" below) (for example, on the literary Bac, French and Philosophy scores are each multiplied by 7 while science scores are multiplied by 2. In contrast, on the scientific Bac, Math scores are multiplied by 7, science scores by 6 and French by 4.) A very heavy academic program
Whichever branch college-bound students opt for, all face a class schedule in high school with 28 hours MINIMUM of obligatory classes weekly in French, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, Earth and Life Science, History and Geography, Physical Education, one foreign language, PLUS extra classes in Economics and Social Sciences, Extra math and science, or extra foreign languages, depending on their branch, as well as optional classes like music, dance, theatre, art, etc. exams (as opposed to vocational-technical high schools that prepare students for easier exams). All students have at least 8 subjects a week; many take options which never "lighten" one’s class load, but only add to it. Some may thus have as much as 36-42 hours of class a week (see next section). In their senior year, all students are additionally required to take Philosophy. Compared with a general American high school, these classes demand much more of these students in terms of memory work, analysis and synthesis ability, reasoning, organisation, quantity and quality of homework, and writing skills. Indeed, with school from 8 to 6 four days a week and half days on Wednesdays and Saturdays with several hours of homework every night, students who manage to do the work well deserve enormous credit. The material is studied here in greater depth, much more like the work of university students. As a consequence, the course work itself can easily be considered as honors in every year and AP quality in much of the junior year. Academically oriented courses in the final year are all AP level or higher. Our school profile
Our school is designed for students who are bilingual, college-bound students (over 98% go on to university), often from families that come from abroad or have lived abroad. Language ability and a desire to prepare for the general BAC described above (that opens the door to university) are the only criteria for entry, but it requires substantial extra time and effort to succeed here, which discourages many candidates. Students take all the usual, required classes in French (see the list above) but also take extra History/Geography and Language/ Literature classes in one of six languages we run here (English, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Arabic). This adds 6 to 10 hours of honors (10th grade) and then AP level work (11th and 12th grades) to the student’s weekly schedule (6 in language and literature and 0-4 in history,...
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