Description of Physics Programs and Curriculum

France: Description of Physics Programs and Curriculum

In 2010–2011 and 2012, a new curriculum was gradually implemented for upper-secondary school (Grades 10, 11, and 12) with more emphasis on skills. The Grade 11 and Grade 12 scientific curricula allow students to aim at careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The physics and chemistry curriculum is meant to develop students’ scientific and critical thinking and strengthen their interest in and affinity for scientific reasoning and research. Together with introducing new science knowledge and content, the curriculum targets developing the following skills:

  • Appropriating a subject (e.g., students are trained to extract relevant information)
  • Analyzing (e.g., students are trained to organize knowledge and information or modeling)
  • Realizing (e.g., students are trained to experiment or to execute calculation techniques)
  • Validating (e.g., students are trained to validate results of experience)
  • Communicating (e.g., students are trained to use appropriate scientific vocabulary)

With a variety of information supports (scientific texts, data structure tables/charts, experimental videos, etc.) students have to solve problems using scientific reasoning. They are expected to identify the appropriate physical quantity to measure and to identify trends in data using various digital tools for data processing and graphing.

The curricula for 11th and 12th grades are both structured around three aspects of the scientific process: to observe, to understand, and to act, with a focus on modern inputs. The Grade 12 physics topics in each content area are listed below.

Scientific Processes Content Areas Topics
To Observe:
Waves and Matter
Waves and particles; Properties and characteristics of a wave; and Spectral analysis Electromagnetic radiation in the universe, including the electromagnetic spectrum, emission and detection of various types of waves and particles (radio, infrared, visible light, UV), interference, diffraction and Doppler Effect

Mechanical waves, including the emission and detection of various types of mechanical waves (acoustic waves, seismic waves, swell), magnitude of an earthquake, sound intensity level), the relationship among speed, frequency, and wavelength, and interference, diffraction and Doppler Effect

Spectral analysis, including visible and UV spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

To Understand: Laws and Models Time, motion and evolution; Structure of matter and matter transformation processes; and Energy, matter, and radiation Motion (displacement, velocity and acceleration), Newton’s Laws of Motion, the principle of the conservation of linear momentum, circular motion principles for satellites, Kepler’s three laws, work, potential energy, mechanical energy in the absence and in the presence of friction, time, special relativity (Einstein’s postulate that the speed of light is constant in a vacuum and is the same for all observers, proper times, time dilation)

Internal energy, specific heat capacity, modes of heat transfer (conduction, convection, radiation), quantum emission and absorption, stimulated emission and optical amplification (LASER quantum principle), electron vibrations, molecular vibrations, wave and particle duality, De Broglie’s formula, probabilistic effect

To Act:
21st Century Challenges
Sustainable development, respect for the environment; and the storage and transmission of information Energy, matter and radiation, including energy chains (the economy of energy)

Systems for information transmission, digital images, analog-to-digital converters, physical processes of data transmission (cable, optical fiber, radio transmission), digital storage on optical disc

Some topics from Grade 11 are also included in TIMSS Advanced 2015 Frameworks:

  • Wien’s law
  • Particle model and quantum theory of light, energy levels
  • Radioactivity, fusion and fission reactions, law of conservation of matter and energy
  • Ohm’s law, Joule-Lenz’s law
  • Difference between electric power and electric energy