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École normale supérieure (ENS) are Frenchmarker Grandes écoles (higher education establishments outside the mainstream framework of the public universities system) initially conceived during the Revolution, and intended to provide the Republic with a new body of teachers, trained in the critical spirit and secular values of the Enlightenment. They have since developed into elite institutions which do not offer degrees as such, but become the platform for France's brightest young people to pursue high-level careers in government and academia.

There are four ENS in total:

Their competitive entrance exams are considered to be extremely selective. They recruit mainly from Taupes, biology Prépas and Khâgnes, even though a small number of their students (less than 10 each year) are recruited separately on the basis of highly selective exams.

Until recently and unlike most of the other Grandes écoles, the Écoles normales supérieures (ENS) did not award any specific diplomas (students who had completed the curriculum they had agreed to with the office of the Dean upon arrival were simply entitled to be known as "ENS Alumni" or "Normaliens"), but they keep encouraging their students to obtain university diplomas in partner institutions whilst providing extra classes and support. Many ENS students obtain more than one university diploma.

The Normaliens, as the students of the several ENS are known, attain a high level of excellence in the various disciplines in which they are trained. Normaliens from France and other European Union countries are considered civil servants in training, and as such paid a monthly salary, in exchange for an agreement to serve France for 10 years, including those of their studies.


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