Lycée Français Victor Hugo: The Training Grounds for the Nonconformists
Lycée Français Victor Hugo

The French education network abroad brings together 535 schools, located in 139 countries, which combined educate over 370,000 students worldwide. About 40% of these students are French, whereas 60% of these are of other nationalities. All are approved by the French Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research. These establishments are either directly managed by the Agency of French Education Abroad (AEFE) – 155 have signed an agreement with it (approved establishments) or be tied with AEFE as the 309 others are partner establishments. One of the foremost institutions which acts an exemplar of excellent teaching methods and an inspiring place for younglings to pursue their early education at is the Lycée Français de Sofia Victor Hugo.

Lycée Français de Sofia Victor Hugo (LVH) is a French international school in the Maxi Complex in Vitosha, Sofia, Bulgaria. It is the largest foreign school in Bulgaria which counts over 800 students aged 3 to 18, from 26 different nationalities. It is accredited by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE).

The school provides public educational services for both French families living abroad and international students. Lycée Victor Hugo promotes the study of French language, as well as an in-depth understanding of French culture and values.

The school was founded in 1966, hosting merely twelve native French children. Over the next 30 years, the school kept steadily expanding until the 90’s when it started welcoming students from the local community as well. This led to almost 10-fold expansion in the student body. French Lycée Victor Hugo implements programs of the French Ministry of National Education, while remaining open to the language and culture of Bulgaria. Its system values cultural openness and provides a multilingual learning environment that fosters independence, reflection, social commitment, community spirit and a sense of citizenship.


At LVH, the educational staff is nearly exclusively composed of French native teachers qualified under the French Ministry of Education. The students have the opportunity to be engaged in a multitude of projects. What is specific is the academic calendar where the school year is split into 5 periods of approximately 7 weeks each, with regular short holidays.

The philosophy of the French educational system is essentially child-led in terms of the natural rhythm of the pupils. In respect of the former, school starts at the age of 3. The period from 3 to 6 years old is very important to the team over at LVH, as they say this is when children learn the language basis and social behaviour that will determine the success of their academic endeavours. They primarily focus on listening and speaking, while also learning how to write letters, numbers etc. which is essential to the development of their fine motor skills.

Furthermore, students at this illustrious school are actively engaged in the study of a number of languages. Upon graduating, our pupils have already mastered at least 3 languages. This is due to the rigorous linguistic programme which is implemented since the beginning – year 1 of kindergarten – Petite section de Maternelle (kindergarten section).  This concerns English language and Bulgarian. At a later stage, students get to choose to study either Spanish or German. A further edition to the linguistic programme is the opportunity this school provides to learn Latin.

The Principal of LVH, Madame Sylvie Lavigne, elaborated on the pedagogy at work in the school, saying: “As a part of our educational system, we also propose a whole set of extra-curricular activities on a daily basis such as theatre, digital learning, creative and sports activities. We believe that the access to a variety of additional activities is complimentary to the creation of well-rounded, open-minded individuals.”


Lycée Français de Sofia Victor Hugo is foremost under contract with the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), which means it is both accredited by the French Ministry of Education (French MoE) and under the supervision of AEFE for the implementation of the French educational programmes and values. AEFE is a governmental institution supervised by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. It coordinates and supports a unique network of 535 schools in 139 countries. This ensures the seamless transition of students from one country to another at any stage of their academic life.

When asked about the kinds of challenges the school faces, Madame Lavigne commented: “As we are in an environment where school usually starts from the age of 6, our biggest challenge is local parents’ reluctance to enrolling their kids at the age of 3. However, we are here to support the families and convince them in the benefits of an early start. Joining our school later on is conditional – kids have to pass a French test, which creates pressure on both the potential candidates and their families. What is more, at this stage we cannot ensure that the child would fully benefit from the entirety of the French educational system in terms of both academics and values. That is why we focus on ensuring the timely communication of our process.”

The Covid Dictate

Covid-19 has certainly been a challenge for all the education systems worldwide, and it has brought a lot of positive changes. The sanitary rules have been adapted and we have changed our sanitary planning and measures accordingly. The safety of our students is a priority. In terms of online educational trends, we can already state that this crisis has urged us to step into the future. The school is now equipped with a new software platform, the ENT (Virtual Work Environment), a safe, collaborative solution that has fast become essential to our community. Among its features are personalized content, direct communication between parents, teachers and students, easy and safe management of online classes.

Nonconformity at its Best

From an academic frame of reference, LVH prepares its students for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (Diplôme National du Brevet) and the General Certificate of Education – Advanced Level (Baccalaureate) – a key diploma to any high school in France and abroad. It also provides training for the acquisition of the Bulgarian diploma.

However, from a developmental frame of reference, LVH puts out an immense effort to create a generation of analytical thinkers, able to tackle the issues of the world today and those that are to come. They implement an interdisciplinary approach to the curriculum in order to foster creativity, social awareness and an overall openminded yet critical approach to the world. With this mix of great pedagogical elements, it is no wonder that a great number of LVH’s former students attend the best ‘Grandes Écoles’ and universities in France and abroad (Switzerland, Belgium, the UK, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, etc.). This is certainly one of the best illustrations of the school’s success.

Mapping a future with Language

In the future, Lycée Français de Sofia Victor Hugo would like to take their multilingual approach further and introduce reinforced foreign language courses. “We wish to implement programmes such as ‘PARLE’ in the primary level and offer reinforced, individualised learning, leading to international sections in the secondary level,” concluded the astute principal, Madame Sylvie Lavigne.

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