Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Focus on Early Learning: Lessons from the French école maternelles

The French-American Foundation and the Economic Opportunity Institute believe that the most successful elements of France’s century-old preschool system of école maternelle offer interesting lessons and insights for Washington.

France’s école maternelle program is an internationally renowned system of free, universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten education. Although it is voluntary, nearly 100% of French children ages 3 to 5 attend école maternelle because their parents recognize its value and importance for their children’s early learning and socialization.

In November 2003, the French-American Foundation and the Economic Opportunity Institute sponsored a conference “Focus on Early Learning: Lessons from the French Écoles Maternelles” for an invited audience of legislators, policy makers, government officials, university and college professors in the field of early childhood education and development, foundations, business, staff and directors of early learning centers, and parents. This report and its recommendations are the result of this conference.

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