by F. Carta

Schools and religions

Schooling in France is free and open to all citizens indiscriminately. Compulsory schooling runs from the age of 6 to 16. Secularism is a fundamental principle of the school system: pupils and teachers cannot proselytise or wear visible signs of their religious faith. In addition, teachers must show neutrality with regard to their political, philosophical and religious opinions.

Subject name

The teaching of religions is called precisely “enseignement des faits religieux” and is characterised by being secular. “Religious facts” are defined as “rites, founding texts, customs, symbols, material or immaterial traces, social manifestations, religious works […] that had (or still have) a more or less strong influence on ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary society”. Les faits religieux that are studied at school are, therefore, cultural elements (objets de culture) clearly distinct from the elements at the basis of worship (objets de culte).

Place in the school curriculum

The teaching of “religious facts” does not constitute a subject in its own right within the school curriculum, but is taught across all subjects. The humanities such as history, geography, literature, art history, music education, art and philosophy are particularly involved.

Teaching objectives

The aim of each teacher is to teach students to perceive the plurality of systems of thought and representations of the world, contextualising their own beliefs while respecting those of others.

The skills the pupils should possess are:

– to be able to analyse a story, a work or an event that has religious references within it and to follow its effects in the present day

– to distinguish different opinions, beliefs and knowledge

– to participate in a critical debate in a pluralist society.

For further information

Ministry of National Education website:

Official vademecum on secularism at school:

Example of the contents of the teaching of religious facts proposed to children aged 8 to 10:

Over the years a number of surveys have been commissioned at national level:

In 2002, on the teaching of religious fact in schools (Debray report):

In 2014, on signs and manifestations of religious affiliation in schools (first Obin report):

In 2021 on the preparation of school staff for secularism and the values of the République (second Obin report):