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École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr: A School for Future Military Leaders

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The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM), or the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr, is one of the world’s oldest and most renowned military academies, and one of the best military academies in France. It trains officers for the French Army, the Gendarmerie, and some foreign cadets. Its motto is “Ils s’instruisent pour vaincre”, which means “They study to conquer”. The school is in Coëtquidan, in the Morbihan department of Brittany, France. It is part of the Académie Militaire de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan (AMSCC), which also includes the École Militaire Interarmes (EMIA) and the École Militaire des Aspirants de Coëtquidan (EMAC).

History of the School

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) was founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, then the First Consul of France, who wanted to create a new elite for the French Army. He established the school at the Château de Fontainebleau but later moved it to Saint-Cyr-l’École, near Versailles, in 1808. The school adopted the red and white plumed hat, called the “casoar”, as its distinctive headgear in 1855, by order of Napoleon III, in honor of Queen Victoria of England. The school also developed many traditions, such as the “2S” ceremony commemorating the Battle of Austerlitz, where many Saint-Cyriens fought and died in 1805.

The school survived the turbulent times of the 19th and 20th centuries, producing many famous officers who served in the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian War, the First and Second World Wars, the Indochina War, the Algerian War, and other conflicts. Some of the notable alumni include Marshal Lyautey, General de Gaulle, General Leclerc, General de Lattre de Tassigny, General Bigeard, and General Saint-Hillier. The school also welcomed many foreign cadets, such as King Mohammed V of Morocco, Emperor Bao Dai of Vietnam, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

In 1945, after the liberation of France, the school was transferred to Coëtquidan, where it still operates today. The school changed its name from École Spéciale Militaire Interarmes (ESMIA) to École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) in 1961 to preserve its historical identity. The school also modernized its curriculum, introducing new academic disciplines, such as engineering, humanities, and social sciences. The school also opened its doors to women in 1983 and became a member of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles (CGE) in 2002, a prestigious association of higher education institutions in France.

How to Gain Admission into The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) admission process is highly competitive and selective, as only the best candidates are chosen to join the school. There are different ways to apply to the school, depending on the academic background and the age of the applicants. The main categories are:

  • The direct admission (concours direct), for candidates who have completed two years of preparatory classes (CPGE) in science, literature, or economics, and are between 18 and 22 years old. They have to pass a written exam, an oral interview, and a physical and medical test. The exam covers mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography, literature, philosophy, economics, and foreign languages. The interview assesses the candidates’ personality, motivation, and general culture. The physical test includes running, swimming, pull-ups, and an obstacle course. The medical test evaluates the health and the fitness of the candidates. The direct admission is the most common way to enter the school, as it accounts for about 80% of the intake.
  • The semi-direct admission (concours semi-direct), for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, and who are between 18 and 26 years old. They have to pass a written exam, an oral interview, and a physical and medical test. The exam covers history, geography, literature, philosophy, economics, and foreign languages. The interview assesses the candidates’ personality, motivation, and general culture. The physical and medical tests are the same as for the direct admission. The semi-direct admission is the second most common way to enter the school, as it accounts for about 15% of the intake.
  • The nomination (sur titre), for candidates who have a master’s degree or a PhD, and who are between 18 and 29 years old. They must be nominated by a high-ranking officer or a civil servant, who acts as their sponsor. They have to pass an oral interview, as well as a physical and medical test. The interview assesses the candidates’ personality, motivation, and general culture. The physical and medical tests are the same as for the direct and semi-direct admissions. The nomination is the least common way to enter the school, as it accounts for about 5% of the intake.
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The candidates who pass the admission process are then ranked according to their scores and their preferences, and are assigned to one of the three schools of the AMSCC: the ESM, the EMIA, or the EMAC. The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) is the most sought-after school, as it offers the highest rank and the most opportunities for the graduates.

Tuition Fees at The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr

The tuition fees for the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) are very low, as the French government subsidizes the school. The students only have to pay for their uniforms, books, and personal expenses. The school also provides scholarships and financial aid for the students who need them. The students receive a monthly salary of about 1,500 euros, covering their living and travel expenses. The students also benefit from free health care, free accommodation, and free meals at the school.

Current Rankings of The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) is widely recognized as one of the best military academies in the world, and as one of the best engineering schools in France. The school is ranked among France’s top 10 engineering schools by various publications, such as L’Étudiant, L’Usine Nouvelle, and Le Figaro. The school is also ranked among the top 100 engineering schools in the world by the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The school is also accredited by the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur (CTI), the French agency that certifies the quality of the engineering programs in France.

The school is also renowned for its academic excellence, international outlook, and alumni network. The school has partnerships with many prestigious universities and institutions worldwide, such as Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, Berkeley, West Point, Sandhurst, and others. The school also hosts many foreign cadets, who come from more than 70 countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, India, Brazil, and others. The school also has a strong alumni network, called the Association des Anciens Élèves de Saint-Cyr (AAESC), which connects more than 15,000 former students, who work in various fields, such as the military, the government, the business, the academia, and the civil society.

Academic Programs

The ESM offers a three-year program, leading to a Master of Engineering degree equivalent to a Master of Science degree in the Anglo-Saxon system. The program is divided into two phases: the common core and the specialization. The Common Core covers the basic sciences, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science, as well as the humanities and social sciences, such as history, geography, literature, philosophy, economics, and foreign languages.

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The specialization allows the students to choose one of the following tracks: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, or systems engineering. The specialization also includes a six-month internship in a company or an organization, either in France or abroad.

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) also offers a four-year program, leading to a Master of Arts degree equivalent to a Master of Arts degree in the Anglo-Saxon system. The program is divided into two phases: the common core and the major. The Common Core covers the basic sciences, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science, as well as the humanities and social sciences, such as history, geography, literature, philosophy, economics, and foreign languages.

The major allows the students to choose one of the following tracks: history, geography, literature, philosophy, economics, or political science. The major also includes a six-month internship in a company or an organization, either in France or abroad.

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) also offers a five-year program, leading to a PhD degree, which is equivalent to a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Anglo-Saxon system. The program is divided into two phases: the master’s degree and the doctoral degree. The master’s degree is the same as the Master of Engineering or the Master of Arts degree, depending on the field of study.

Campus Life at École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr

The campus life at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) is challenging, rewarding, and enriching. The students, who are called cadets, have to follow a strict schedule, which combines academic studies, military training, and extracurricular activities. The typical day of a cadet starts at 6:00 am, with a morning exercise, followed by breakfast, classes, lunch, more classes, sports, dinner, and study time. The cadets have to wear their uniforms at all times, and respect the rules and the hierarchy of the school. The cadets also have to participate in various ceremonies, such as the flag-raising, the oath-taking, the graduation, and the commemoration of the fallen.

The campus life at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) is also fun, diverse, and supportive. The cadets can access many facilities and resources, such as libraries, laboratories, auditoriums, sports fields, gyms, swimming pools, and clubs. The cadets can also enjoy the natural beauty and the cultural heritage of Brittany, as well as the nearby cities of Rennes, Nantes, and Vannes.

The cadets also have the opportunity to interact and bond with their classmates, their seniors, their juniors, and their instructors, who form a close-knit community, called the “grande famille de Saint-Cyr” (the big family of Saint-Cyr). The cadets also have the chance to meet and exchange with the foreign cadets, who bring their own perspectives and experiences to the school.

Athletics

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) highly emphasizes physical fitness and sports, as they are essential for developing the cadets’ health, skills, and leadership. The cadets have to practice at least one sport every day, either individually or in teams, and compete in various tournaments and events, both internally and externally. The school offers a wide range of sports, such as soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, handball, tennis, badminton, squash, table tennis, fencing, judo, boxing, wrestling, karate, taekwondo, archery, shooting, horse riding, cycling, running, swimming, sailing, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, and climbing. The school also has its own sports teams, called the “équipes de France militaire” (the French military teams), which represent the school and the country in national and international competitions, such as the Military World Games, the Military World Championships, and the Olympic Games.

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) is proud of its athletic achievements and its sports culture, which foster the values of excellence, teamwork, discipline, and fair play. The school has produced many outstanding athletes who have won medals and honors in various sports, such as General de Castelnau, who was a champion fencer; General de Lattre de Tassigny, who was a champion boxer; General de Gaulle, who was a champion rugby player, and General Saint-Hillier, who was a champion skier. The school also has a tradition of honoring its sports heroes, such as the “casoar d’or” (the golden casoar), which is awarded to the best athlete of the year, and the “casoar de bronze” (the bronze casoar), which is awarded to the best athlete of each class.

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Notable Alumni

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) has a long and illustrious history of producing leaders and innovators who have made significant contributions to the military, the government, the business, the academia, and the civil society. Some of the notable alumni of the school are:

  • Marshal Lyautey (1841-1934), who was a military leader and a colonial administrator, who served as the Resident-General of Morocco, and who is considered as the founder of modern Morocco.
  • General de Gaulle (1890-1970), who was a military leader and a statesman, who led the Free French Forces during the Second World War, and who became the President of France and the founder of the Fifth Republic.
  • General Leclerc (1902-1947), who was a military leader and a hero of the Second World War, who commanded the 2nd Armored Division, which liberated Paris and Strasbourg from the Nazi occupation, and who died in a plane crash in Algeria.
  • General de Lattre de Tassigny (1889-1952), who was a military leader and a hero of the First and Second World Wars, he commanded the 1st Army, which liberated France and Germany from the Nazi occupation, and who became the Commander-in-Chief of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, which fought in the Indochina War.
  • General Bigeard (1916-2010), who was a military leader and a legend of the French Army, who fought in the Second World War, the Indochina War, and the Algerian War, and who became the Minister of Defense and the Secretary of State for Sport.
  • General Saint-Hillier (1954-) was a military leader and strategist who served as the Chief of the Defense Staff of France and is currently the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee.
  • King Mohammed V (1909-1961), who was the Sultan and the King of Morocco, who led the Moroccan independence movement, and who is regarded as the father of the modern Moroccan state.
  • Emperor Bao Dai (1913-1997) was the last Emperor of Vietnam, who ruled from 1926 to 1955 and abdicated in favor of the Republic of Vietnam.
  • President Paul Kagame (1957-) is the President of Rwanda who led the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which ended the Rwandan genocide and is credited with transforming Rwanda into a stable and prosperous country.

Conclusion

The École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM) is a school for future leaders who aspire to serve their country and the world with honor, courage, and excellence. The school provides a rigorous and comprehensive education, combining academic studies, military training, and extracurricular activities. The school also offers a rich and diverse campus life, which fosters the values of camaraderie, solidarity, and diversity.

The school also boasts a distinguished and influential alumni network spanning various fields and sectors. The school is a symbol of the French military tradition and French excellence and a source of pride and inspiration for many generations. The school is more than just a school; it is a way of life, a state of mind, and a spirit of adventure. you can visit their website if you are interested in enrolling in one of the best military schools in France.

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