What are the differences between the programmes?

European Sections, International Sections, OIB, SI, Groupe B or DSD. There are a lot of choices out there, how do you find the right programme for your child? Here is an overview of the different options.


European Sections

Created in 1992, their objective is to offer supplementary language classes, and to develop a sense of European citizenship. On average, students receive two extra hours of language instruction in addition to their regular course load starting in quatrième (ages 13-14). After two or three years this prepares the student to take a non-linguistic course (usually history) in the language of the section.

The French baccalaureate will indicate “mention européenne” if the student achieves a grade of at least 12/20 in the chosen language. At the Middle School level, these sections offer accelerated language classes within the French national public system. The teachers of these classes are state employees, and follow the national curriculum. Success in these sections could allow students to bypass the entry tests required for certain studies. Many schools offer European sections. Currently about 200,000 students are enrolled in 4 566 sections. They represent about 10% of students who obtain a general baccalaureate diploma.

In 2006 the Lycée of Sèvres opened a European Section to accommodate students from collèges in Chaville, Ville d’Avray and Sèvres who were already participating in this program (section européenne ou ALC [1]). The list of students accepted into the program is published in June by the inspector of the Academy of Versailles. The Minister of Education has recently entered a debate about stopping this programme for children starting Middle School (Collège) in September 2016.


International Sections or Integrated Programme

This is a totally different option from the former "European Section". The “International Sections,” created in 1981, have two major differences.

First, these sections must accommodate at least 25%-30% foreign students. Secondly, the educational program is elaborated in conjunction with the programs of the foreign countries concerned. For English and German sections, including those of the SIS, Cambridge University and the Kultusministerkonferenz are the entities which provide this collaboration.

In concrete terms this means that the teachers participate in regular meetings throughout the school year with the foreign supervisory bodies, who thus ensure quality teaching in the sections. Approximately 12,000 students throughout France are enrolled in international sections divided among 13 different languages.

At the end of troisième (ages 14-15) International Section students take the “brevet” exam, with an international option. The course of study culminates with the French baccalaureate exam with an international option (OIB); the modern language (LV1) exams are replaced by literature and history/geography exams administered in the language of the section in which the student is enrolled.

The OIB thus reflects not only the student’s high level of language acquisition in both languages, but in particular his/her knowledge of two cultures. Indeed, preparing for a history or geography exam in English or German differs considerably from preparing for the equivalent French exam.

Approximately 1000 OIB diplomas are awarded each year. The diploma has the same validity as does the Abitur for German universities and facilitates admission to Anglophone universities as well. An OIB diploma reflects a high level of academic achievement; it is unfortunate that it is not better known!

The OIB should not be confused with the IB exam, which is sometimes referred to as the “Geneva Baccalaureate.”


IB or International Baccalaureate

The IB exam is is designed for students whose academic language is English and is the culmination of a series of courses, at both the “standard” and high levels, in languages, sciences, mathematics, and social sciences. The IB does not fall under the aegis of the French ministry of education; it is organized by a private, international entity.

The IB has its advantages and is well balanced between academic requirements and personal development. Personally, I appreciate this balance very much. The IB is offered and recognized in many parts of the world. Some English schools prefer it to A-levels.

However, in France, the IB is considered by French universities to be a foreign baccalaureate. IB holders are therefore not automatically qualified to attend French universities. In practice, French universities admit students who have the IB but on the same footing as students who have a foreign bac. Usually this is not a problem.

Theoretically, les classes préparatoires (a two-year program that prepares students to enter professional schools) are accessible to IB holders. However, as teaching styles are very different in IB programs from the highly rigorous French-style pedagogy used in prépas, these students are poorly prepared to cope. We polled serveral schools that prepare the IB in France. Only exceptionally do any of their students go on to classes préparatoires after an IB.


Wednesday Programme

Our Wednesday School allows children who are fluent in English or German to consolidate and develop their English or German language skills in a school environment on Wednesday afternoons. This programme allows families to choose a French school for the core curriculum. Children must have the possibility to speak English or German at home and be able to complete weekly homework assignments. The curriculum is mapped to the educational framework of the UK.



At the lycée the English Section students are divided into two groups,  OIB and SI. SI students have 4 hours of English Language and Literature and 2 hours of History and Geography classes in English with SIS teachers per week. These groupings only exist during the SIS lessons. The rest of the time, in the other subjects, the OIB and SI pupils are in mixed classes which allow them to stay and work together with their SIS peers. The SIS teachers are the same for all five groups.

The pupils in the OIB group prepare for a special version of the French baccalaureate taken by students in International Sections. It is a demanding exam and requires a high level of work and fluency in English. It should only be attempted by pupils with the necessary experience, aptitudes and skills.

In Seconde, there is a possibility for pupils who are not of a native English speaking background and who are not totally at ease in written and spoken English to be integrated into the SIS through the SI group.

The number of students is limited to 15 per class, which allows for more intensive language learning and for teachers to give more attention to individual students. All trips and exchanges organised by the SIS are open to and include SI students. SI group students are encouraged to participate in The Play, our annual theatrical production and other clubs and activities.

Since the OIB programme begins in première, it is still possible for some "SI" students to switch into the OIB group if they are highly motivated and capable and have obtained excellent results in English (language and literature) and History and Geography in their first year at lycée. Their SIS teachers will recommend an ‘orientation’ during the course of the third trimestre and a decision will be taken in consultation with pupils and their families before the end of year ‘conseil de classe’.

Conversely, pupils may only leave the OIB group to go into the SI group for exceptional reasons.


Groupe B or DSD

At the lycée the German Section students are divided into two groups,  OIB and Groupe B or DSD (Deutsches Sprachdiplom). DSD student have 4 hours of German Language and Literature and 2 hours of History and Geography in German per week taught by SIS teachers. They take the DSD II exam in Terminale. The DSD II is a diploma awarded to speakers of German as a foreign language and the exam is generally taken by students who have studied in German sections abroad. It is administered and awarded by the Kultusministerkonferenz.

It is an officially recognized diploma attesting to a command of the German language necessary to pursue higher education in Germany. It corresponds to the level C1 as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

In the SIS, students in the German Section are oriented at the end of their first year in lycée according to their abilities either towards the bac OIB or the regular baccalaureate taken in conjunction with the DSD.

Students begin preparing for the DSD II in première (2nd year of high school). They take the written tests of the DSD in December of their final year in secondary, followed by the oral tests in January.

The program covers political, social and cultural current events in Germany; these are sometimes compared with French current events. One or two literary works are also included in the program.

Grading is out of 100 points which is broken down into 55 points for the written and 45 for the oral. A total of 50 points is required to obtain the DSD.



This exam is the product of a cooperative agreement between Germany and France signed in the 1990’s. Students who pass the Abibac are awarded the French baccalaureate diploma as well as its German equivalent the “Abitur”. It is required for admission to French and German universities.

As preparation for the exam, students take accelerated German starting in seconde (ages 15-16).The students receive 6 hours weekly of language instruction, as well as 4 hours of history and geography in German. Thus there are 10 hours of German per week.

To compare the OIB and the Abibac: Even if the demands on the student are similar, the current configuration of the secondary program in international sections spreads the work load more evenly as students are required to take 6 hours of German as of the sixième year, but “only” 8 hours in premiere(ages 16-17) and terminale (ages 17-18). In addition, in many lycées, students preparing for the Abibac do not have history-geography classes in French. This can be a handicap if the student later wants to pursue certain post-secondary studies in France.


Sites to visit to go further:



[1] anglais langue et civilisation au Collège de Sèvres

Par : Webmaster le 13/01/2022


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