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Caps and gowns...in France?!?

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Beginning at age 11-12, when they enter the class of sixième, and throughout their secondary studies until age 17-18, the life of a French student is entirely focused on passing the baccalauréat exam.

For more than two centuries, baccalauréat—from the Latin "laurel crown"—has been both a ritual of passage and the indispensable key to higher education.

The long road to the "bac," however, ends in a rather lackluster fashion: anxious students wait for their name to appear on a list (either on the Internet or posted at the entrance of their lycée) and either rejoice or lament ... and that's the end of it. No graduation ceremony, no caps and gowns, no party—just names on a list.

However this year, one school in France decided that the passing of the bac deserved something better than the usual impersonal notification. The International School of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in Manosque, attended by some 500 "ITER children," had good reason to celebrate in style: 27 seniors, among them the first students in France to sit for the European bac, and all of them passed.

Parents and friends who attended the ceremony on Saturday 6 July were witness to a very unusual event in France: young bacheliers wearing anglo-saxon style gowns and tossing their cap into the air amidst cheers and applause.

"We wanted to celebrate all of our graduates and have a formal moment together before they all head off in a different direction," explains international school Director Bernard Fronsacq.

The young graduates, he adds, "now have a very strong academic base. But in organizing this event, they have also acquired something that is very important for their future: they have learned to work as a team. We are all very, very happy."


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