Compulsory schooling at age 3

The Kindergarten Conference took place on March 27th and 28th 2018. The aim was to bring together professionals from the field of education and early childhood to discuss and debate the various subjects concerning the nursery school. The Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, but also Boris Cyrulnik, a renowned specialized neuropsychiatrist, participated in these meetings.

To date, there is no bill on compulsory schooling at age 3. Nevertheless, Emmanuel Macron has announced that he wants compulsory education from the age of 3.

Today the law says:

Article L131-1 of the Education Code imposes an obligation to educate children between the ages of 6 and 16. Education for children under 6 years of age is therefore not compulsory in France.

As a result, parents of a child aged 3, 4 or 5 are not required to enrol in kindergarten even if, in practice, almost all of them choose to do so. Today, 97% of children are enrolled in kindergarten from the age of 3.

Francette Popineau, at the head of Snuipp-FSU, the leading union in French education, does not consider herself either for or against it but asks to see the measures, particularly in terms of investment by the government. The Association des maires de France (AMF) is in favour of this, “provided that this decision by the State does not entail any additional costs for the municipalities and that the necessary number of teaching positions are created”.

The Kindergarten Conference wanted to address the issue of digital technology, and in particular “to prevent the risks associated with screens”.


“screen abuse has an impact on sleep quality or children’s concentration. And it can alter their language performance as the neuropsychiatrist points out. “The smaller the child, the more serious it is, but the more recoverable when the situation changes. Kindergarten must therefore participate in the prevention of screen abuse, especially before the age of 7.

JEAN-MICHEL BLANQUER, Minister of National Education

In Europe, no country imposes school at age 3. As the majority of parents in France opt for enrolment in kindergarten from the age of 3, this choice of compulsory education from the age of 3 concerns 26,000 children, mainly based in Mayotte and Guyana. This choice is therefore symbolic, but has one objective: to recognize the importance kindergarten in the education system.

The beneficiaries of such a law:

  • 800 jobs will be created to support the obligation to educate from 3 years
  • 26,000 children involved.
    Private nursery schools. Today, the municipality is obliged to finance private elementary schools on the same basis as public schools. However, this obligation does not impact nursery schools (being optional). With this obligation to educate from the age of 3, private nursery schools will therefore receive this financial contribution.

Points of vigilance

Teachers’ unions are asking to see the procedures put in place to facilitate this change.
With regard to home schooling, parents will have to make the same request as at 6 years of age, with a prior declaration.
The ATSEMs (Specialised Territorial Agent for Nursery Schools) could potentially see their workload increase. They are recruited by the municipality and not by the national education system. The budget may then be impacted. The 800 support jobs may not absorb the entire workload.
The municipality’s financial participation in private nursery schools