The French Grande Ecole refers to both the Business Schools (Ecoles de Commerce) and the Engineering Schools (Ecoles d'ingénieur), a unique education system in the world.
The creation of French Grandes Ecoles by Emperor Napolean Bonaparte aims to cultivate the social elite for the country after the French Revolution, and it has educated many social elites for the country. This unique education system brings French higher education into a different dimension, and it is a system which is independent of the French University system.
A prerequisite of two years of study at the preparatory school, CPGE (Classe Préparatoire aux Grandes Ecoles) is necessary before to apply for the Engineering School. It is already tough to enter CPGE, and it is even harder to enter a top French engineering school as places are limited, the applicants are pre-selected by French baccalaureate exam, and the title of “Engineer” enjoys a high social status and respect in French society. Even parents, they are proud to share that their son/ daughter is studying in an engineering school during the conversation!
The French engineering schools have cultivated many social elites, entrepreneurs, and industrial leaders including Mr. Bernard Arnault, President of LVMH, an international renown luxury group; Mr. Patrick Pouyanné, president of Total Petroleum and Gas Corporation; Mr. Gustave Eiffel, designer of famous Paris Eiffel Tour and many others. There exists another “trainee engineering school,” an engineering school by apprenticeship (par apprentissage in French), and named as CESI (Centre des Études Supérieures Industrielles).
The foundation of CESI engineering school dated back in 1958 when French enterprises encountered difficulties in having the enough engineers for the industrial development. Five leading French companies, SNECMA (known as SAFRAN nowadays); Renault (automobile group); Telemecanique ( known as Schneider Electric nowadays), Chausson and CEM, have launched the idea to set up the CESI. The CESI, engineers by apprenticeship, has educated the qualified engineers that meet the need of the company and at the same time allow the senior technicians have the opportunity to upgrade their academic levels. These engineers have a solid technical knowledge of the industrial products and technics compared to those engineers graduated from traditional engineering schools.
Prepared by Hsin-Mei TURMEL