What on earth does CNED mean? My children attend an American school, do they need to follow CNED classes to learn French? What about if one day we decide to live in France?
We have heard many questions about the strange acronym of this old educational French institution and the kind of courses it actually offers. To give you a better insight, we have asked families to share their experience about teaching and learning with CNED.
What is CNED? For whom is CNED made for?
CNED (Centre National d’Enseignement à Distance) is a French public institution for distance learning, that offers courses to everyone wishing to study in French or to acquire new professional skills. These courses include all grades and every subject of the French national curriculum, from Kindergarten to 12th Grade (Terminale) and may help children and teenagers living abroad who:
- attend local schools and want to learn the academic French curriculum, or to acquire a strong French level in terms of speaking, reading and writing
- attend a French school and want to study a foreign language not taught there,
- wish to add a French certification to their background
- cannot attend school, for example because they are travelling
A lot of French families choose a local school for their children, so that they feel really immersed in their new country’s culture, but they don’t want to give up French Education. Juliette made this choice when she was living in London with her family: “We wanted our children to make the best of our experience abroad, so we decided to enroll them in our local school. But we knew we may come back to France or move to another country after few years, where we would apply for a French School. That’s why we decided to follow the complementary curriculum offered by CNED, starting in CP (first grade)”.
Many French parents also want their children to be able to keep strong connections with their family and homeland’s culture: “When I was a child, some of my cousins living abroad would not speak French at all”, remembers Florence, a mother of 3 children who have been following the CNED curriculum since Kindergarten. The eldest is now in 6th Grade. “I was disappointed not to be able to create a stronger relationship with them because we could not communicate. I promised myself that if I ever had to live outside of France, my children would learn to speak, read and write in French”.
Edouard, a French Dad, and his American wife, make their best to raise their children in a bilingual environement: “We think that bilingualism is a great gift for our children”, he says, “We are committed to follow a bilingual curriculum, and hope this will be a real plus in their life from a personal and professional point”.
What does CNED have to offer to my children?
CNED actually offers 3 main options for children from “Grande Section” (Kindergarten) to “Terminale” (12th Grade) living abroad:
- The whole curriculum, consisting in every subject your child would be taught in a French School: French Language Arts of course, but also Mathematics, Geography, Sciences, History, foreign languages, Art, Music, PE, etc. This full-time program requires about 24 hours of weekly studying and is designed for children who are not attending a school. Learn more
- Any subjects à la carte: you can chose one more subjects from the whole curriculum classes. Many families choose just French Language Art.
- A complementary curriculum or “Scolarité complémentaire internationale”, designed for children going to local schools and willing to learn French through 3 main subjects: French Language Arts, Mathematics and, depending on the grade, History & Geography (elementary curriculum). Learn more
Claire has chosen this option for her children in 2nd and 4th grade: “My children are currently attending a Dual Language Program”, she explains, “but we wanted them to acquire stronger bases in French. We decided to enroll them in the complementary curriculum with CNED, which brings them up to a grade level”.
“My sons go to an American school and when they were old enough to learn reading and writing in French, I chose CNED to rely on a strong academic support that I would be able to follow with my children”, explains Edouard.
How is the curriculum organized? How does it work?
After you register with CNED, you will receive all the documents and books needed for the year. An online version is also available from 6th Grade.
“It is quite easy to organize the work at home, since the lessons to be studied and the exercises to be completed each day are clearly indicated”, explains Claire. “The different themes and documents studied in French are various and really interesting, from cooking recipes to poems, through newspaper articles.”
“We particularly appreciate that the CNED courses cover the whole curriculum in French Language Arts, through varied and well-structured activities, and with an attractive design”, adds Florence.
You also have access to an online platform providing more exercises to practice with digital resources, making learning easier and keeping motivation at a high level. It provides useful information for parents as well, regarding both the curriculum and their child’s results, along with the opportunity to contact the teachers, ask questions and take part in a parents’ forum.
Every 3 to 6 weeks, your child is due to complete written and oral assessments, to be sent via a dedicated website. “For the oral assessments, you have to record your child as he or she recites a poem or reads”, explains Claire. These tests will be marked by teachers certified by the French National Education. “We always appreciate the feedback and advice provided by the teachers, definitely useful to help our children strengthen their skills. However it would be helpful to be able to contact the corrector directly in case we have some questions.” This feedback will be provided by written comments, or through an audio file. “We like to listen to the teacher’s comments, especially regarding an oral work”, says Florence. “It makes us feel closer to her”.
The students who have sent 75% of the assessments, and acquired the expected skills, get a certificate at the end of the school year that can be used to apply to French schools in France and all over the world. Admission is not automatic as per rule but in the facts in works well.
How much work is required to complete the CNED curriculum?
Naturally, it depends on your child’s age, maturity and background, and on the amount of time available. Even if at least 10 hours weekly are recommended to study French Language Arts, it sometimes seems unrealistic to fit them in a child’s timetable when the school day is followed by after school activities. Florence agrees: ”The program is intense, we just cannot complete all activities, we have to make choices, especially as our children have a fair amount of homework to complete after school.”
“Because I work full time and the children are quite busy, we try to work CNED whenever we can to be honest”, agrees Edouard, “I struggle to respect CNED calendar but my objective is to have my sons ready for the assessments. And we made it so far”.
If French is the language spoken at home, your child will probably find it less challenging to complete the given tasks, especially the oral ones. Also, most children won’t mind spending time practicing on the computer, but, depending on their age, they may need adult supervision while working on it. “My kids love to practice online at the end of each session“, confirms Claire.
Is it realistic I coach my child to complete the CNED curriculum?
Again, it depends on your personal background, your goals, your free time and on how efficiently your child works with his or her parents. If you have attended a French School and have a good knowledge of the curriculum of your child’s school, it will probably be quite easy for you to figure out which parts have to be deepened and which parts are already mastered by your child. As a French as Second Language teacher, Claire chose to teach her children: “Having studied Literacy at the University and given private French classes for many years, I was confident I could work with my children. We spend an average of 4 hours weekly on the curriculum”.
But for some children support from outside of the family makes studying much easier, and a lot of parents actually find it useful to hire a tutor.
“First, I was working with my children” explains Florence, “but then I realized that they were more efficient with a tutor who comes every week for 1-2 hours”. Edouard shares a similar experience: “Because it was all on me during weekends and I didn’t want to spend all my time with the children making them work, I’ve finally chosen to hire a French teacher to give me a hand during the week”.
Not only will a teacher help the students focus, but you can also rely on her/his experience to make the lesson plan fit the tight schedule. He or she may also provide further explanation regarding any part of the curriculum, and precious advice to acquire some skills that still need to be reinforced. Do not hesitate to check on MyTutorSpeaksFrench.com and find the tutor who will support your children with this extra work.
In conclusion, if you and your child are ready for the extra effort, CNED offers a fantastic opportunity to study the French curriculum anywhere in the world, to be assessed by certified teachers and receive their feedback on a regular basis, and eventually to get a certificate at the end of the year.
Finally, CNED offers more than the classic school curriculum: French speaking students may enroll and prepare for a choice of competitive examinations after the Baccalaureat. Also, adults in the workforce are also offered the opportunity to get professional training in different subjects.
We wanted to thank warmly Sylvie, who is offering French and CNED lessons via MyTutorSpeaksFrench.com, and who connected us with families studying CNED, as well as Claire, Florence, Juliette and Edouard for sharing their experience.