French Education System Explained: Grandes Ecoles vs University

French Education System Explained: Grandes Ecoles vs University

November 6, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Salut YouTube today I’m here with a
real-life French person! Look, she’s real! Hi I’m Madeline, I’m from Paris. The reason I got Madeline into this video today is because I’ve got this topic that I’ve
wanted to cover for a long time which is on the French education system so very
much focused on the higher level education we’re talking bachelor’s
degrees master’s degrees because the way it works here is not obvious especially
not to foreigners. There a big difference between universities and what are called
these Grandes Ecoles which are these private schools which Madeline is going
to tell us all about later so if you want to know a little bit more about the
French education system how it works differently stick around and we’re going
to cover all of that in the next few minutes. Madeline explain to us you know
when you are at the end of your high school years in France what options do
you have? Okay so mainly you will have like two
main options the first one would be like to go to what you said a Grande Ecole
which is the equivalent of a private university let’s say most of the time
and the other option will be to go to a public university but what you have to
know is that there is already a different process in the selection like for public university you don’t have any selection so as long as you’ve
passed it’s okay most of the time like there are some exceptions but let’s
say the big picture would be that private Grande Ecole then you will have a higher selection process most of the time also
people do what we call classe préparatoire which is like two years
preparation to do the selection process right so you study for two years just to
enter a competition just to see which school you can get into. Yes. Not for public universities but it’s true for most of Engineering schools, Business schools also. I’ve heard a lot about this “prépa” as they call it and it sounds like hell. It sounds like very
military like all my friends who have done it had the same experience like
they worked all day long all night long you really study study hard and you’re
not even sure to get it at the end. Isn’t it true that with the grading system as
well it’s like really really harsh? Sure! Sometimes for Classe Préparatoire you can have your profs telling you oh you got 4 out of 20 it would be
like nice piece of work like you’ve done it well and all your friends around you got 2! So you’re like WOW I’m the best of the class! It’s so harsh, it’s never good enough. And I don’t even get why
they do that it’s probably to push you, push your boundaries, find your limits and see how far you can go and how far you can study. I have to
admit like when I came to France I noticed that this was a really big thing
about the difference between universities and Grandes Ecoles. I’ve
worked mostly in let’s say CAC40 companies like the big multinational
French companies and stuff so they’re very selective but you know whenever I meet people for the first time I’m like ‘Hi! Cool, so what university did you do?’ and I get
this reaction like I’m not sure if you know how the French education system works but I
didn’t actually go to university and we go to what we call a Grande Ecole and so I noticed straight away that there was a stigma around it. According to you
what are the big differences in the students that go
to university versus Grande Ecole? I would say first like what you said sounds totally true. So students in France they know that their choice about schools universities
whatever will kind of define themselves because in the workplace what is the
most important in France is your diploma and the name of your school and not
necessarily let’s say your personality your skills or whatever and your
experiences not always like it’s really your diplmoa that is important so
people will choose between these two big options. Grande Ecole the main difference is that they will really allow you to network a lot with your peers with
professionals you do a lot of internships you’ve got a lot of
professional experiences that you do not have if you go to public universities
it’s very much about like get the job get the job get the job
whereas I imagine universities a little bit still more around learning getting
the content and thinking for yourself and knowing how to be critical
thinker etcetera so I think maybe there’s more of a more practical element
of Grande Ecole but I was quite shocked because I work in HR and It’s very much been like take candidates from the top five
schools and I was like but we could be missing like the most motivated talented
person that’s gonna hit the ground running and shake things up in the
company and they’re like you know no the managers say that they have become
either from HEC, ESCP or ESSEC In France I’ve noticed that
managers will actually define like I only want someone from HEC. That’s so funny because what we say in France it’s like “Ils sont de la maison”, like they’re from the
same house and it’s like Harry Potter you’re from Gryffindor
and so managers are like if they’ve got two people if there is one that is from the same school as they were they’ll definitely, and it’s natural also, like
they’re definitely gonna prefer the one that went to the same university or school. It’s a little bit bad for diversity. I know know but I feel like there is a let’s say just a little bit of change around that and like companies are
trying a lot more to find other people than just the top five schools. In some companies the people who do the Grande Ecole they start on a higher salary than
university students for exactly the same job. Grandes Ecoles, if I understand
correctly, you’ve gone through very competitive exams to get in so you
usually surrounded by kind of intellectual elite but it’s also it’s
costly to go to some of these schools so it’s also sort of let’s say an echelon of society and so you’ve got a really good network, you’ve got lots of professional
experiences so you’re building a professional network. And so Madeline, you tell me, because you’ve gone to university yourself and you’re working in a really big company right now so what would you say were the benefits of studying at a university? Well one main benefit of going to
university would be that is cheap because the state is paying for that so
you don’t have to put three thousand a year it’s like three hundred so
definitely anyone can do it
and that’s why you got so much diversity at University and that’s so great like
you can meet so many different people it’s enriching and interesting that you
cannot really have in Grandes Ecoles. Grandes Ecoles everyone is kind of
the same and definitely years passing by everyone becomes the same. Yeah you can sometimes tell, you can go to a party and you’ll be like oh I know which school you went to, you don’t even need to tell me. So with the Grandes Ecoles and Classe Prépa it’s very very difficult to get into the
Grandes Ecoles but once you’re in it’s relatively easy to pass and because
we’re not so obsessed with academic transcripts in France you can just get
10 out of 20 your whole way through doesn’t matter you don’t care about your
grades and it’s kind of like once you’re in all you have to do is pass and you’ve
got that name on your CV and you’re fine but at university it’s a bit harder
isn’t it because it’s very self-directed because there is no selection at the
beginning, the selection will happen later like years passing by you will have
exams not everyone’s gonna pass so definitely there is a selection so
you have to be really autonomous one thing you get from University for sure, independence, it’s not gonna be easy all the time
and you’re gonna have to learn by yourself you know you have to read
you’re gonna have to, you know, think a little bit like different like the only
thing you learn at the University is that there is no truth and every time
you learn something then you have to be critical about it. Grandes Ecoles also you’ve got a lot of parties you got a lot of let’s say student life you don’t really have
at university that’s also kind of weakness is that you do you do not
really network with other people or whatever but what I really feel that is, what I really like from University is that you get this kind of share and
participatory culture like helping each other there’s not such a
competitive spirit like I don’t know it’s really different like the mindset
of the people is really different. When you’re in a university do you even kind of imagine working for a company? No no It’s really like for me like when I did
my application to a big company private company you know everyone was like “Madeline, why would you do that?” like there’s no point and then I had an interview and they were like wow you’re
lucky you like consider yourself as lucky but you’re not gonna go
through that and it’s gonna stop right now then I made it. Why did they think that
you wouldn’t get in? Because this is really like something that is in
everyone’s mind that for example from University every time you will hear like
you’ve got two options. First you can do like research or you can work for
public companies but stop thinking about private companies this is for Grandes Ecoles. Because you hear that all day long you kind of start to really think that way
and you got people from university they won’t have enough confidence to think ‘Oh, I don’t care about the system, I can do it myself and do my way and
apply for private companies’ and so it’s a vicious cycle because this is stigma
about university students that may be too theoretical and they won’t be
able to work in the business world and the University students who are
willing to work talented smart but they’re like oh I’ll never get in anyway
so you don’t apply and so you don’t get considered and yeah it’s so frustrating. I would say like if you have to, is there a real difference. My opinion is that yes there is a
difference because those worlds are quite closed and
do not meet so many times like if you’re from University you can hang out with
people from University and same for Grandes Ecoles However, the thing is like anything
else both can adapt and easily and what’s important is the people behind
it’s because like it’s not a real difference
it’s a representative one. Yeah coz you don’t learn different things I
mean if you’re studying communications in university or
in a Grande Ecole it’s the same content sure no it is it’s definitely not as
simple as that and luckily it’s not yes I think this system has a lot of
benefits a lot of downfalls and I know that sometimes people go to university
because they love to learn and they love to be self-directed and then they’ll go
to the business school just for the last year or two, have the stamp on the CV, I find these kinds of measures quite extreme that you’ve got a lot of people in France
with two masters one from university one from Grandes Ecoles and even within the Grandes Ecoles network it’s like oh you just did your masters at Grande Ecole. So you’re not a real one! I find this whole system super fascinating but thank
you so much for shedding some light for us I’d love to hear what you guys think
please comment down below especially if you’re French, if you’ve been to Grande Ecole, if you’ve been to University honestly it would be really really
interesting for us to continue this discussion down there but until the next
video I’ll see you guys next time thanks for watching
à bientôt !