A Glimpse into France’s Ecole Maternelle

The overwhelming majority of early childhood education in France takes place in public preschools such as the well-known ecole maternelle. These programs must meet national standards and are sufficiently subsidized by the government to enable children from middle class families to attend at little or no cost. Not surprisingly, enrollment of French children in the ecole maternelle is near universal at age 3.

That’s not the case in the U.S. where the majority of preschool-age children attend some kind of program at age 4, only about half at age 3, and many private and public programs are of questionable quality. This week, National Public Radio’s Paris-based Eleanor Beardsley dropped in on an ecole maternelle where her son Maxim is enrolled. The broadcast includes perspectives from other parents whose children attend, and commentary by NIEER co-director Steve Barnett who draws the contrast between what’s available to the parents of French preschoolers and their counterparts in the U.S. Barnett recently returned from an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conference on early childhood issues in Paris and reports that as in the U.S., early childhood programs in much of the rest of the world exist under the threat of the budget knife that could cut preschool quality globally. Citizens everywhere must be concerned about the tendency for governments to sacrifice quality rather than quantity when budgets are tightened.

Listen to the NPR broadcast about early childhood education in France.


  1. This was very interesting to read and to listen to. France’s preschool syste sound really great!

  2. Melanie Carridnie on

    I am a student at Walden University and I am pursuing a Masters degree in Early Childhood Studies. This sememster I have an assignment to establish a contact with an early childhood professional via e-mail. I want to know if there is anyone in your organization willing to commmunicate with me on a regualr basis. I would like to discuss issues and trends in the early childhood field, and get your perspective on ece topics. Would you please e-mail me and let me know if there is a willing participant. I would greatly apreciate it.

  3. I too am working on my Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Early Childhood Education. I have been a teacher with the little ones for 27 years. I love working with infants and toddlers. I have also worked with preschool however infants and toddlers are my favorite group of children to work with.

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