Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Firstly, you won't find any kindergartens. In fact, the kids between the ages of 2 and a half to 6 years old enter into a section at a primary school called Maternelle. Yes , they run around and interact with the older kids and in the case of my little one,she loves it.
Kids can enter in the beginning of the academic school year in September (rentree 1 ) or in January (rentree 2). It all depends on your child's birthday and what you want as a parent.
The Maternelle can be a French Maternelle or Bilingual (French and Basque)
My daughter goes to a bilingual school but as she already has 3 languages under her belt we decided that she would stay in the French only section to ensure that her French would be perfect.However, you can choose to send your child into the Basque bilingual section. What does that mean exactly? Well for the first 3 years of school,in maternelle your child will be spoken to only in Basque for them to develop a strong foundation in the language.
What is maternelle?
Maternelle is split into 3 sections:
Petite section (small) - 3 to 4 years old
Moyenne section (medium) - 4 to 5 years old
Grande section (big) - 5 to 6 years old
The maternelle is in the same primary school compound and the kids in petite section can go full time or half day. It all depends on the parents.During the course of the day the kids have numerous recreation breaks, story time,snack,lunch ,they do a couple of activities and the petite and moyenne sections get to have a nap after lunch. When they enter Grande Section they start learning to write letters and numbers up to when they are in primary school in Class Preparatoire (CP - Preparation class for primary school).
Classes can range to being very small with 3 kids to large with 29 kids. It really all depends on the town that you live in and the school that you choose to send them to. I have mixed feelings about the system as I come from an education system fashioned after the British system and have taught internationally where I have first hand experience with all the different activities kids are exposed to.I as a parent do a lot of activities with my daughter and engage her curiosity as much as possible, therefore I have to decide what course of action to take later this year with regards to her education.
All the best with your decisions!