The first online French-American high school, OFALycée, will be opening its virtual doors in September 2020. Its goal is to prepare students within the U.S. education system for the French Baccalaureate exams.
Every year, some 400 high school students in the United States take the Baccalaureate exam, which enables them to continue on to higher education in France. Fourteen schools, mostly private and expensive institutions, offer preparation for the exams in America, and few students dare to take them independently. “For students studying in the American system who also have to follow the French program, this represents a monumental amount of work,” says Géraldine Guillermin, the former principal of the Lycée at the International School of Boston. “There is a demand from French families in the United States who want more ways to access the Baccalaureate.”
This context led the French woman and 22-year Massachusetts resident to found OFALycée, an online learning institution for students from sixth grade to twelfth grade. The offer is different to the program provided by the CNED, France’s remote education service, which provides classes for elementary, middle, and high school students. Instead, OFALycée is an addition to the American system.
“Many of the subjects in the Baccalaureate program, including languages, math, sciences, and sports, are already covered by the U.S. curriculum,” says Géraldine Guillermin. “Our teachers reinforce and complete the knowledge learned in these subjects while also offering classes that are not in American schools, such as French literature, philosophy, economics, history, and geography.”
If a student at an American high school is taking physics classes, for example, they can complete their learning online with chemistry and methodology classes in preparation for the Baccalaureate physics and chemistry exams. “Students who take more advanced American classes will be able to take fewer French classes to complete their education and be ready for the final exams.”
Many of the OFALycée classes take the form of short videos combined with interactive exercises. Twice a week, a live video meeting enables teachers to go over the weekly progress with students in groups of six. “Students have to be organized enough to work independently between classes,” says Géraldine Guillermin, who recommends seven to ten hours of work at home per week.
“The Atmosphere of a Traditional Class”
A theater teacher and personal development coach is tasked with leading the online student community and “recreating the atmosphere of a traditional class.” Three other economics, math, and philosophy teachers from the International School of Boston have also been recruited. Géraldine Guillermin will teach history and geography – her original profession – while the teaching positions for natural sciences and physics and chemistry are waiting to be filled.
The production of educational videos has already begun, and students can enroll from January 6, 2020. Expect to pay 4,900 dollars per year for middle-school, and 9,900 dollars for high school – between two and four times less than a private institution in the United States. The first OFALycée students will start in September, and will have several practice exams just like their classmates at the Lycée Français in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. However, the actual Baccalaureate will take place in one of the nine American examination centers.
“Our program demands a real investment of time,” says Géraldine Guillermin. “Our goal is to guide students to ensure they sit their Baccalaureate exams in the best conditions possible, and to show that the French and American education systems can work well together.”