Marc Colmant
Ministry of Education

Language and Literacy

French Republic constitutional law states that “French is the language of the Republic.” French also is the language of instruction in France and the most widely spoken language in the country. An amendment to the Constitution (Article 75-1) in May 2008 states that “regional languages belong to the heritage of France.” The Ministry of Culture and Communication reported that during the 2013−2014 school year, the number of students instructed in regional languages and cultures was 298,000 in public and private primary schools (4.4 percent), 68,000 in lower secondary schools (2 percent), and 39,000 in upper secondary schools (1.8 percent). The highest number of students instructed in regional languages received instruction in the regional language of Alsace, followed by Occitan-Langue d’Oc, Breton, Corsican, Creole, Catalan, and Basque.1

Recent immigration, primarily to urban areas, is associated with various additional languages being spoken in France. In efforts to integrate foreign language lessons into the curriculum, France has signed international agreements (Enseignement de langue et de culture d’origine, or Instruction in Native Language and Culture) with several foreign countries, including Algeria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, Croatia, and Serbia. In the 1970s, the first objective of these agreements was to allow foreign students to better fit into the French education system while maintaining links with their heritage and the possibility of returning to their home countries. Today, however, the primary objectives are to preserve foreign students’ native culture and language while improving their language skills and their success at school. The number of students receiving additional language instruction ranges from 75,000 to 100,000 per year.

The Agence nationale de lutte contre lʼillettrisme (National Agency to Fight Against Illiteracy) is an entity that plays a significant role in promoting literacy. Created in 2000, this public interest group has the goal of coordinating and optimizing resources provided by the state, regions, and companies to battle illiteracy.2

Note that the National Reading Observatory was removed in October 2011. This literacy advisory group brought together researchers, teachers, inspectors, and parent representatives to analyze educational practices in the field of learning and improvement in reading.3