Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 10/07/24


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Regarding care opportunities before the legal age to go to school (3 years old), asylum seekers have equal access with French nationals to the crèche system,[1] although capacity is limited across the country, and parents can receive significant financial assistance to pay for a childminder.

While no provision of the Education Code covers the particular case of children of asylum seekers, the law provides that all children are subject to compulsory education as long as they are between 3 and 16 years old.[2] Kindergarten and primary school enrolment can be done at the local town hall. Enrolment into secondary school is made directly at the institution closest to the place of residence of the child. Education for asylum seeking children is provided in regular schools.

If the children seem to have a sufficient command of the French language, the evaluation process will be supervised by a Counselling and Information Centre (Centres d’information et d’orientation, CIO). This State structure is dedicated to the educational guidance of all students.

When the children are not French-speaking or do not have a sufficient command of writing the language, their evaluations fall under the competency of the Academic Centre for Education of Newcomers and Travellers Children (CASNAV).[3] The test results will enable teachers to integrate the child within the dedicated schemes e.g. training in French tailored to non-native speakers (français langue étrangère, FLE) or initiation classes.

Barriers to an effective access to education are various. Beyond the issue of language, there are also a limited number of specialised language training or initiation classes and limited resources dedicated to these schemes. This problem is even more acute for reception centres in rural areas which simply do not have such classes close by. Moreover, some schools require an address before enrolling children and this can be an issue for asylum seekers who do not have a personal address. Finally, access to education for children aged 16 to 18 is much more complicated as public schools do not have any obligation to accept them. They may be eligible for French courses offered by charities but the situation varies depending on the municipality. Access to apprenticeship is not possible as it would imply an access to a work permit that is usually not granted to asylum seekers. As a general rule, there is no training foreseen for adults. French language courses are organised in some reception centres depending on the availability of volunteers. Young adults and adults are often forced to put aside their career or training, pending the decision on their asylum application. For young people, this represents a considerable loss of time.

Finally, asylum seeking children with special needs are faced with the same difficulties as children with special needs in France in general. Access to trained and specialised staff (auxiliaires de vie scolaire) tasked with supporting these children during their education in regular schools is very limited.

Regarding universities, asylum seekers have the possibility in theory to enrol in a course but several practical obstacles remain such as the need to have a diploma at the end of the school course and/or another university diploma recognised by France. In practice, very few asylum seekers are enrolled in University.

Overseas France: During a visit to Mayotte in October 2023, the Ombudsman noted that the right to schooling is not assured for thousands of children: more than 15,000 children would not have access to traditional schooling, including many migrants.[4]




[1] See e.g. Ministère de l’économie, Les inégalités d’accès aux crèches et leurs enjeux économiques, January 2023, available in French at :

[2] Article L. 131-1 Education Code.

[3] See Circular NOR: 2012-143 of 2 October 2012.

[4] Défenseure des droits, ‘La Défenseure des droits à Mayotte : l’exigence du respect des droits de tous’, Press release, 31 October 2023, available in French at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation