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France Government and Education

Administrative Division

According to, the local government is divided into 90 departments (including the territory of Belfort). Since 1881, the three departments of Algeria have been part of the local government. The department is divided into neighborhoods (arrondissements: 279), the district in cantons (3024) and the canton in communes (37.981). The department has a civil personality, and can buy, sell, inherit, borrow. Executive power is in the hands of the prefect, appointed by the Minister of the Interior; the deliberating assembly is the General Council, elected by universal suffrage (one councilor for each canton), which votes a budget fed by real estate and property income and dedicated to road works, public assistance and education. The council itself distributes the direct taxes due to the department among the districts. The prefecture councils (23 in number, so that each has jurisdiction over several departments, except that of the Seine) act as administrative courts, whose members are not elected, but appointed.

The district has no civil personality, and has no assets or budget. Executive power is in the hands of the sub-prefect, appointed by the Minister of the Interior; the deliberating assembly is the district council, elected by universal suffrage and charged with dividing the direct taxes due to the district among the municipalities. The canton, which includes a number of municipalities, is simply a judicial and electoral district for the appointment of general councilors.

The municipality, which is the real administrative cell, usually consists of a village and its territory; executive power is exercised by a mayor (maire) and from one to twelve councilors (adjoints), with the exception of Paris (see below) and Lyons which has 17; the deliberative assembly is a municipal council, whose members (not less than 10 and not more than 36) are elected for 4 years, with direct universal suffrage. The municipality, like the department, has a civil personality, and has a budget that is fed by the income from its movable and immovable property, by the duties and additional cents withdrawn from direct taxes due to the state, and which must be used for the construction of schools. and roads and public assistance. In short, it is a small republic, which administers itself and provides for its own economic life. Only the Paris municipality has a special organization. It is divided into 20 districts, each comprising four districts, and in each district a mayor and three councilors, appointed by the president of the republic, are in charge of all the operations of the civil status, of the public assistance and hygiene works and of the supervision of the schools. The 80 representatives of the Parisian neighborhoods, elected by universal suffrage, form the municipal council, which votes and administers the budget of the city of Paris. The president of the municipal council has no effective power, the executive functions being reserved to the prefect of the Seine and the prefect of police, both appointed by the Minister of the Interior. The rest of the Seine department is divided into two districts and 22 cantons; the 80 municipal councilors of Paris, plus the 22 councilors of the cantons form the general council of the department.

Judicial system

Justice is administered by justices of the peace in the cantonal capitals and by courts of assizes in the departments, assisted by 12 jurors. There are also 26 Courts of Appeal, and a Court of Cassation in Paris. The judges are appointed by the president of the republic. They can be revoked by a decision of the Court of Cassation, constituted in the Superior Council.


Teaching was organized in France in the years following the Revolution of 1789. In 1790 Talleyrand proposed to establish a primary school in each municipality. The project was approved, but the continuous succession of wars made it impossible to execute. The Floril law 11 of the year X provided for secondary education by establishing a high school in each district of the Court of Appeal. Finally, in 1808 higher education was organized, divided into five faculties. Only in 1850 the freedom of teaching was recognized, and the Catholic school began to be organized. With the law of March 28, 1882, primary education became compulsory and completely free.

A new organization dates back to 1926. The teaching given in the lower classes of high schools and in private schools was unified. Teachers seconded to secondary schools and subjected to the control of inspectors for primary schools have taken the place of special professors. A severe passing exam eliminates insufficiently prepared pupils from secondary education at the beginning of the sixth and fifth grade. These are then directed towards higher primary education or towards technical and vocational schools. The free education has extended to the lower classes of high schools.

Similarly important changes have been made to the high school curricula. According to the law of 1902, the teaching of Latin was compulsory only up to the second. After completing the first course of study, the pupils could choose between four sections (Latin-Greek; Latin-modern languages; Latin-sciences; sciences-modern languages). Currently, scientific teaching has been extended and made uniform in the different sections: Greek is optional. Latin is obligatory only in the first and is replaced in the second by another modern language. After the first baccalaureate, pupils can choose between philosophy and mathematics.

Finally, higher education was profoundly modified with the law of L. Liard of July 10, 1896. The normal high school was developed for the preparation of professors. Courses have been set up everywhere for foreign students with special exams at the end of them. The number of electrotechnical institutes and schools of arts and crafts has increased considerably.

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