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Public thematic report
September 2015
his summary is intended to facilitate the understanding and
use of the report produced by the
Cour des comptes
Solely the original report is legally binding on the
Cour des
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
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A particularly heavy financial burden at national level . . . . . . . .7
A burden to be redistributed across the education system
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Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
The lycée (France’s upper secondary education establishment), an institution
created in 1802 for the elite, underwent profound change in the second half of
the 20
century in order to educate the whole school age population. This
change resulted in particular in the development of additional learning path-
ways alongside the general lycée education: the technological baccalaureate
was created in 1965 and the vocational baccalaureate was created in 1985, with
the goal of educating at least 80% of each year group to baccalaureate level.
Remarkable progress has been made. Upper secondary education, which only
20,000 pupils received in the lycée in 1930, became open to all.
However, although this numerical target has been met, it doesn’t mean the sys-
tem is efficient. Firstly, qualitative outcomes, whether in terms of success of
baccalaureate holders at higher education level or in terms of professional
inclusion, are failing to meet expectations. Secondly, the cost of providing lycée
education is high, particularly compared with other OECD and European Union
members whose results are equal to and even better than our own.
Changes in lycée pupil numbers in France (thousands of pupils)
Cour des comptes
based on National Education Ministry data
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
These mixed findings make improvement measures necessary, to enable grea-
ter resources to be devoted to the other less-well funded education levels. The
Court has conducted an in-depth analysis of the cost of lycée education and its
main explanatory factors, by type of curriculum, by establishment, by stream
and by subject, which has led to identify various areas in which action may best
be taken.
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
A particularly heavy financial
burden at national level
A burden of €26bn, 92 % of which is
borne by the public purse
At national level, lycée expenditure
totals €25.9bn (or 18.6% of national
education expenditure), 92% of which
is met by the public purse. The State
finances 67% of this expenditure, or
€17.5bn, of which €16.5bn is paid by
alone: 75.3% goes to State lycées and
13.6 % to private lycées with the
balance allocated to support func-
The regions finance 19.4% of public
expenditure allocated to lycée educa-
tion, or a total of €5bn. This spending
rose significantly until 2009 under a
which time it has gradually decreased.
This spending is now principally on
impact of the transfer of technical
personnel, blue-collar workers and
service personnel by the State to the
regions. The burden of these predomi-
nant operational costs will ultimately
require rationalisation of the lycée
network by the regions.
Financers of French lycée education in 2012
Cour des comptes
based on National Education Ministry data
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
A particularly heavy financial
burden at national level
Higher spending than comparable
As a ratio of the number of lycée
pupils, France’s spending is higher
than that of the majority of countries
comparable to France. The average
variation in costs between French
lycée pupils and those of other OECD
member countries is + 38%. France is
also set apart in terms of the diffe-
rence in the cost of lycée pupils and
primary school pupils, which is far
more pronounced than in other coun-
tries, to the detriment of primary
school pupils.
According to comparative studies by
the OECD, excess costs are for the
most part due to the teaching
volume, which is far higher, and the
number of pupils per class, which is
lower. The relatively low level of pay
of French teachers partially offsets
these variations.
Cour des comptes
based on OECD data
Annual cost per primary and lycée school pupil (in 2011)
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the C
our des comptes
A particularly heavy financial
burden at national level
An approach for calculating the
total cost for each lycée
By developing a method for compu-
ting total costs for lycée pupils (exclu-
sive of costs borne by external contri-
butors) which was used on a group of
31 public and private establishments,
offering general, technological and
vocational education for the 2011-
980 000 hours of teaching, the Court
was able to gain a better understan-
ding of the breakdown of costs for
lycée pupils and produce original data
on the cost for each stream and each
teaching hour. This data reveals that
average costs mask very large varia-
tions in expenditure. Accordingly, a
more detailed understanding of costs
is vital in order to successfully
manage the education system and its
Although the average overall cost per
lycée pupil in the establishments exa-
mined was €9,862, close to the natio-
nal level, considerable variations from
the average were observed in the
case of the most atypical establish-
among them, which are often more
Payroll accounts for 80% of costs, of
which 53% is teachers’ salaries, whilst
operational expenses account for
only 7-14% of costs and optional
expenditure by the regions less than
1%. One of the key drivers is therefore
teaching costs, and to a lesser extent
the cost of administrative and techni-
cal support.
A particularly heavy financial
burden at national level
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
Breakdown of the cost per lycée pupil in the group of establishments studied
Cour des comptes
, study of a group of lycées
The cost of private education is less
than the cost of public education, due
in particular to differences in salary
contributions (private-sector teachers
are not required to pay into the spe-
cial pension fund for civil servants, so
Structural differences in the teaching
body (lower numbers of qualified tea-
chers at aggrégation level, a less
costly replacement process, higher
proportion of contract staff) also
serve to explain what are sometimes
considerable variations.
The cost per pupil on a vocational
pathway is higher than for a general
or technology pathway, by 46% on
average, in the establishments under
study, with costs spread very widely
across a very diverse range of subjects
taught, and depending on
the specia-
ments. This high cost is explained in
the main by the size factor: vocational
establishments tend to be smaller,
and class numbers are also lower.
Finally, teaching costs vary signifi-
cantly by subject. Subjects termed
core disciplines (i.e. compulsory sub-
jects most commonly found in each
stream) in the LEGT (general and
technological lycées) cost on average
half as much as special subjects (whe-
ther these are optional or specific to
the various learning pathways), with
variations ranging sometimes from a
factor of 1 to as much as 6, between
core subjects and certain optional
A particularly heavy financial
burden at national level
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
Average cost of core disciplines and special subjects in the group of
establishments under study (general and technological pathways)
Cour des comptes
, study of a group of lycées
In conclusion, more than the hourly
cost of teachers, classroom size is the
key factor in explaining variations in
cost per pupil observed between
streams and between learning path-
ways. Under such circumstances, the
teaching volume, i.e. the number of
teaching hours received by each pupil,
particularly in small classroom sizes
(special and optional subjects, small
establishments), is a decisive factor
governing expenditure.
Rebalancing the burden
within the education system
Teaching costs: cutting the num-
ber of teaching hours and simpli-
fying the learning offer
The French education system is cha-
racterised by a very high teaching
volume spread over a low number of
weeks, and provided by teachers with
low regulatory service obligations
that are set out strictly on a weekly
basis. All this means that the cost per
The number of teaching hours in
France is indeed high : 1 108 on ave-
rage for each French lycée pupil, com-
pared with 933 hours in Germany,
950 hours in the United Kingdom and
741 hours in Sweden. This teaching
volume is concentrated over a low
number of weeks, in theory 36 (38 in
Germany, 40 in the United Kingdom),
but in actual fact the number is often
much less, owing to the loss of two to
three weeks at the end of the year
due to the way the baccalaureate
exam is organised. Coupled with the
inflexible nature of the management
framework of teachers, whose regula-
tory service obligations are strictly set
at weekly level, with no room for
manoeuvre at annual level, and are
fewer than in many other countries
(648 annual hours in France for accre-
dited teachers compared with 718
hours in Germany or 692 hours in the
United Kingdom), this overall archi-
tecture pushes up teaching costs.
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
Rebalancing the burden
within the education system
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
The fact that many subjects are
taught in small classroom sizes, as a
result of the increase in the number of
optional subjects and of practical
classes in the vocational pathways,
also plays a significant role in pushing
up teaching costs.
Paradoxically, therefore, it is the
optional or elective subjects that cost
the most compared with core tea-
ching disciplines. This situation is exa-
cerbated by a prolific and poorly coor-
dinated teaching offer: the general
pathway offers 15 possible taster sub-
jects in the first year of the lycée
), 11 optional subjects in the
second year (
), and 15 sub-
jects in the final year (
), not
to mention the many options for
modern languages. The combination
of pathways is therefore very varied
as a result.
The range of subjects offered locally
is largely governed by supply, and the
partnership between local education
authorities and the regions means it is
not possible to regulate the way in
which these evolve. In fact, establish-
ments often begin offering options or
streams in order to improve or main-
tain their appeal and enable families
to work around school catchment
area restrictions, without effective
oversight by education authorities.
Finally the complexity of the bacca-
laureate makes structuring of the
learning offer difficult. The link bet-
ween learning streams and examina-
tion formats encourages the mainte-
nance of a highly diverse training
offer. The number of possibilities offe-
red for modern languages (58 in total
for which examinations may be sat,
out of which 20 are chosen by less
Volume of teaching and instruction (in 2012)
Source: Cour des comptes based on OECD data
Rebalancing the burden
within the education system
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
than 50 pupils) serves to illustrate the
structure, offering what is sometimes
an over-abundance of subjects.
The network of establishments:
reviewing coverage densit
A close correlation has been found to
exist between the size and the cost of
an establishment, be this in terms of
the cost of teaching, which is higher in
those establishments in which ave-
rage classroom sizes are smaller, or
the cost of administrative or technical
support. For historical, geographical
and political reasons, France has
maintained a very dense network of
establishments, with a very high num-
ber of small establishments (11% of
establishments educating less than
100 pupils, representing only 1 % of
all lycée pupils).
General and technical lycées- figure showing
teaching ratios (teaching hours per pupil
per establishment) by size of establishment (strata) in 2011
Cour des comptes
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
Rebalancing the burden
within the education system
These small establishments are costly
and have counter-productive effects
on the education system: they offer a
smaller range of quality learning
options. The choice of a local esta-
blishment and territorial planning
imperatives are not always compati-
ble with the obligation to provide
equal access to a public education
service of the same quality, or with
the desire to raise pupil education
This is partially due to the way in
which competences are distributed
between the State and the regions,
making the decision to terminate
classes or close establishments a deli-
cate one. It is also due to the choices
made by the private sector under
contract, which keeps establishments
small to satisfy the requirements of
families. The development of digital
learning tools ought nevertheless to
facilitate innovative practices that
enable greater regulation of the lear-
ning offer.
The cost of the management struc-
ture: increasing the efficacy of
governance mechanisms
Some lycée costs are the result of fla-
wed management mechanisms. The
allocation of resources at national
and local level, for example, is not suf-
ficiently nuanced. All too often, small
establishments benefit, to the detri-
ment of education plans. Certain
good practices, such as management
lycées and the inclusion of new digital
technologies are still too marginal
and should be more widely develo-
Technology pooling, which has been
cautiously embarked upon by local
authorities, deserves to be better eva-
luated and more extensively develo-
ped. The implementation of optional
actions in support of school life by the
regions, under the local public inte-
rest clause (
clause générale de com-
), ought, for its part, to be bet-
ter interlinked with the overall goals
of the state education system.
More broadly, the quest for a more
efficient lycée ought to be subordina-
ted to the renewal of the governance
mechanisms by means of which they
are managed at regional level. In fact,
both the State and the regions
finance local state education esta-
blishments to deliver a local public
service. However, their collaboration
does not use a sufficiently consensus-
based approach in attaining the goals
of the state education system: the
regions and the State sometimes pur-
sue divergent, if not contradictory,
Rebalancing the burden
within the education system
objectives. These divergent stand-
points explain to a large extent why
resource allocation mechanisms can
lack coherency and efficacy.
Finally, the hybrid status of the lycée
gives rise to management difficulties,
linked to a lack of coordination bet-
ween the State and the regions and to
the weak nature of the powers availa-
ble to the establishment head. This is
true in the case of personnel manage-
ment, which falls under different
authorities: the State for teaching
staff and the region for technical
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
The study by the Court has established that the relative cost of French lycée
pupils compared to those of other OECD countries is the result of very high tea-
ching volumes and an excessive, complex and poorly regulated education offer,
linked in part to the examination format of the baccalaureate and the inflexible
nature of the managerial framework, particularly for teachers.
The density of coverage provided by the network of establishments and the
maintenance of high numbers of small lycées also contribute to the generation
of high teaching and administrative costs.
Finally, regional governance of the education system and the inadequate
convergence between policies pursued by education authorities and the
regions result in flawed choices being made and in avoidable administrative
A significant improvement in the efficiency of lycées is possible. This would
allow for redistribution among school years which would help to raise the skill
and knowledge levels of pupils entering the lycée. It would also allow for contri-
bution to the financing of structural reforms of the education system, particu-
larly in the area of teaching personnel management, which the Court advocated
in earnest in its report entitled
Managing teachers differently (
Gérer les ensei-
gnants autrement
in May 2013.
With this in mind, the Court sets out two strategies:
• simplify the overall architecture of the general and technological pathways;
• make the vocational pathway, for which major financial investment has
already been made, more efficient.
Summary of the Public Thematic Report of the
Cour des comptes
To facilitate potential resource
redeployment in the education sys-
tem between education levels and
years, the Court recommends:
bringing the teaching time
for lycée pupils into line with that of
comparable countries, and distribu-
ting this more evenly across a longer
academic year
nature of the learning offer, particu-
larly in terms of options;
simplifying the baccalau-
reate format.
To boost the overall performance of
establishment coverage, the Court
setting optimal establish-
ment size targets and developing a
more limited configuration for lycée
coverage, particularly by making use
of the possibilities offered by dis-
tance learning technologies.
To improve management, and to
simplify and increase the coherency
of state education system gover-
nance at regional level, the Court
reviewing methods for the
allocation of resources to establish-
ments by the State and local authori-
ties, whilst neutralising the bias
towards small establishments with
low staff numbers ;
basing education expendi-
ture per lycée pupil on a documented
standard shared by both the State
and the regions
developing a tool for analy-
sing the consolidated cost per lycée
pupil at establishment level using a
representative sample;
implementing a single pro-
gramming and contracting plan at
local education authority and regio-
nal level
rolling-out tripartite contrac-
ting between lycées, the State and the
regions to increase the autonomy of
establishments and the responsibilities
of establishment heads
spreading the pooling of
establishment management bet-
ween regional councils.