So how does your child achieve access to such hallowed portals? Well, it starts before birth. You, the parent, should preferably be a teacher. There is a strong over-representation of teacher's kids in the microcosm of the grandes écoles. Why? Because of the 'capital culturel' that teachers can offer their kids. A broad culture is actually more important than a family's economic resources. I've mentioned before that teachers are suspected of not teaching other people's children very well in order to reduce the competition for precious places, and this does rather support that notion.
Your child is born, feet on the starting block. Going to a good maternelle is essential. Already, by the age of 10, if your child is falling behind, the chances of catching up at primary school or later are very slim. Many children have private lessons at home to supplement the (lack of good) teaching they receive at school.
Once beyond maternelle, attending a good school is still important, and this will probably be in one of the main urban centres. Jumping a class is considered a Good Thing because it will make everyone look at your child favourably thanks to his precociousness.
Next he has to distinguish himself from his peers. This means taking a first language such as German or Russian although both the schools my son has attended at collège level don't offer German any more because of the lack of interest. Next, he should take a second language such as Greek or Latin. Improve his English by sending him to an (expensive) American holiday camp where the cosmopolitan variety of kids will oblige him to speak English (supposedly). There's no point sending him to a UK family in a group because he'll spend all his time with his French mates speaking French.
Most important, then is the cultural environment, including debating around the family table, cultural visits, travelling, mastering new technologies and, because he's getting such a crap education from his teachers, those all important private lessons. Neglect nothing in the combat for victory and consider your strategy carefully.
The only Bac worth having is the Bac S (sciences) and he'll have to work hard enough to get a 'good' or 'very good' grade if he wants to go further. However, all work and no play makes your child a very dull specimen, so he'll have to improve his personality with extra-curricular activities such as sport or art to such a level that he wins prizes and amazes the gallery.
Post-Bac come two or three years of exhausting unremitting effort at a classe préparatoire where your child will have to dedicate all his time to studying for the final entry exams. It's at this point that many (of the more imaginative) students, exhausted and demotivated by the frenzied competition, jump ship and head off to a university or the purgatory of a lesser school. This does not necessarily scupper their chances for a good career, but there is a glass ceiling that works against managers lacking the most prestigious diplomas.
Becoming a member of the elite takes hard work and dedication by the whole family, and for those who succeed
"c'est comme l'anoblissement du temps de l'ancien régime: une place dans les allées du pouvoir, et un pedigree flatteur".Are French bosses so much better than German, American or British or any others on the planet? Are French companies that much more successful?
Is all that effort worth it?