Description of the VET System in France

The French compulsory education system is divided into three stages, the primary education (for ages 6-11), lower secondary education (for ages 12-15) and the upper secondary education in either a General and technological "Lycée" or in a vocational "Lycée" (compulsory for ages 15 and 16).

On completion of their schooling, pupils are awarded a brevet (national certificate) on the basis of their marks in the final two years (fourth and third classes) and a national examination. The brevet is not a compulsory qualification and continuation of their schooling in a lycée is not dependent on their passing the examination, but on having successfully completed the third year.

In order to enter the last stage of compulsory education, the Lycée, the pupils are offered three options, general studies, technological studies and vocational training.

The general and technological lycées provide the preparation for three types of general baccalaureate (economic and social, literary or scientific), a technological baccalaureate (with eight categories) or a vocational training certificate (brevet de technicien). Upon completion of the vocational “lycée”, the vocational training certificate allows students to enter working life, or to continue their studies in higher education vocational sections or in an “Institut Universitaire Technologique”.

The lycée professional provides a combination of general education and technical knowledge, including a guaranteed in-company placement. It prepares students over a two-year period for the first level of vocational qualification, corresponding to the “certificat d’aptitude professionnelle” (CAP) or the “brevet d’études professionnelles” (BEP). Both qualifications are similar, but while the CAP has a greater focus on vocational training, the BEP is more focused on general education, intended for those wanting to continue their studies. At the end of their initial vocational training, students may follow a two year program in order to obtain a vocational baccalaureate, leading to direct employment or to further study.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for education policy as pursued through vocational training in schools and through apprenticeships. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has a parallel responsibility for vocational training in agriculture. The Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment is in charge of continuing vocational training for young people and adult job-seekers and for the vocational training of employees in the private sector (it can thus make rules and regulations and set training fees, etc.). Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Youth and Sport, are in charge of training and vocational diplomas in the areas for which they are responsible .

In 2004 the National Council for Lifelong Vocational Training (Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie or CNFPTLV) was set up. Its tasks are to :

  • Promote cooperation at national level among the various agencies involved;
  • Advise on legislation and regulations concerning lifelong vocational training and apprenticeship;
  • Assess regional policies for apprenticeship and continuing vocational training;
  • Compile an annual report to Parliament on the utilization of financial resources earmarked for lifelong vocational training and apprenticeship.

With a view to coordinating vocational training policies and measures, regional employment and vocational training coordination committees (Comités regionaux de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle or CCREFPs) have been established. These committees – made up of regional representatives of the Government as well as representatives of the regions, trade unions and employers’ organizations, and regional chambers of agriculture, commerce, industry and trades – are tasked with promoting cooperation among the different agencies involved in vocational training. They ensure better coordination of vocational training and employment policies at national level. Specifically their functions include policy analysis, research, monitoring and evaluation.

The National Employment Agency (ANPE) and the National Union for Employment in Industry and Commerce (UNEDIC) merged in 2008 and created a new structure, “Pôle Emploi”. This body is responsible for registering and advising unemployed people and paying out their benefits .


School attendance in France is compulsory between ages 6 and 16 and the French education system consists of three educational cycles:

  • Observation and adaptation to secondary level during the first year;
  • Two core years;
  • Education/training observation.

IVET at lower secondary schooling (college) lasts four years, covering school years 6 to 9. Education is organised into three educational phases. At upper secondary level, once students leave the college at age 15 (unless they repeated a year), they either attend a lycée d'enseignement général et technologique -LEGT-[General education and technological high school], or a lycée professionnel -LP [Vocational high school]. At this stage, pupils spend three years working for a general or technical diploma, or else to go to a vocational high school, providing the CAP or BEP, or over three years for a secondary vocational diploma, the Bac Pro .

Vocational courses combine general education with a high level of specialized technical knowledge, aiming to prepare students for a trade and to pursue further studies. They also lead to the award of national diplomas and include compulsory periods of workplace training, between 3 and 10 weeks every year, depending on the diploma. Students can also switch between learning routes and systems, being able to move from general and technical education or from vocational training into technical studies .


The French CVET system was introduced in the 1970s, involving the French state, regions, companies and social partners. It has its own distinct structure, in which collective bargaining plays an important role and people can access training in different ways, depending on their individual status: job seekers, employees, and their age, under 26, 26-45 and over 45 .

Continuing vocational training is intended for people, both young and old, who are already part of the workforce or are embarking on working life. It aims to help them find or return to work, to remain in employment, to develop their skills and acquire different levels of vocational qualification, to enhance their earning power and to improve their cultural and social circumstances. The social partners and the State have developed and implemented various schemes which fall into two categories: training for job-seekers and training for people in work (employees in the private and public sectors and self-employed people). Since 2008, the Government implemented a process of reforming vocational training for private-sector employees and job-seekers. It reviewed various aspects of the system, focusing on certain core aims: to give individuals more secure career prospects, enabling them to find or return to work quickly; to overhaul the financing of training for people in work (reducing the number of bodies collecting contributions – see Chapter 10); to introduce a training ‘savings account’ based on the now-transferable individual entitlement to training (known as the DIF) .

Quality Assurance

As far as Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training in France is concerned, the Ministry of Education in France is the competent body defining strategies, policies, framework and learning and teaching programs and ensures staff recruitment and management of training activities.

The Ministry is also responsible for Vocational education at secondary level, including a national curriculum, exams and diplomas, recruitment, training and other related activities.

Furthermore, the Department under the name “High Council for Evaluation” evaluates the performance and activities of teachers, covering the field of secondary vocational training.

In recent years, France has taken many initiatives to introduce quality criteria for its VET system.

At national level, the Outline Financial Legislation Act (LOLF) of 1 August 2001 introduced ‘a culture of results, of spending more wisely and making public action more effective’. The overall national budget is now broken down by missions, programmes and measures – rather than by ministry, as previously – so that performance indicators can be drawn up. In addition, the Research, Surveys and Statistics Development Department (DARES) of the Ministry of Employment, the Evaluation, Forecasting and Performance Department (DEPP) of the Ministries of Education and of Higher Education and Research, and the Centre for qualifications Studies and Research (CEREQ) all compile statistics and conduct studies to assess the effectiveness of the policies implemented.

At regional level, the regional councils, which are now in charge of apprenticeships and vocational training for young people and adults, have adopted ‘quality charters’. These documents are co-signed by vocational bodies representing particular sectors, or by training organisations that enter into contractual agreements with the region.

They cover various aspects of training, such as:

  • Improving provision for apprentices, placing workers in jobs, and qualifications in specific sectors;
  • Enhancing the quality of services offered by training bodies, including the way trainees are treated on work placement, as well as training methods, follow-up and help with job finding.

At training provider level, a number of quality labels were introduced in France in the early 1990s, with a view to certifying the quality of training organisations and trainers. The training of vocational education tutors, teaching methods and the range of courses available have all been overhauled and modernised, notably with the development of block-release training and new information and communication technologies .

As far as quality assurance for CVET is concerned, with the development of quality initiatives such as ISO, the Ministry of Education created a quality label for its adult training network. This label aims to reinforce conditions for personalizing needs for vocational education and training, bringing in ISO quality measures to the system.

In addition to the information provided in the following section discussing the EQARF indicators, it is worth noting that the Ministry of Education was also considering the introduction of the following indicators as quoted from the recent CEDEFOP comparison of seven Member States use of output targets for improving quality in the VET system . “The rate of:

  • Continuation into higher education of people who obtain the baccalaureat;
  • Continuation into STS (Section de techniciens supérieurs) of people who obtain a technical baccalaureat;
  • Young people employed seven months after the end of upper secondary school (excluding those who go on to further studies).

EQARF Indicators

The following PDF attachment summarises evidence identified that relates any indicators used at national level to the ten indicators proposed in the EQARF recommendation: EQARF Indicators France

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