Well it depends on the school but generally the class structure is broken up into "blocks" that last about 3 weeks long. Each block builds on the previous blocks. You start out with classroom study for topics such as culinary math, law classes, sanitation then you move into basics knife cuts, stocks etc. After you move in specific areas of cooking Asian, European, banquets, wines etc. Usually half way through the program you leave the school and work in the real world.
When I was in school many kids failed out in the first few blocks because they had trouble passing the math classes. This is something a lot of people who purse a career as a chef don't realize. If you are going to be profitable you need to be able to do basic math well and on a regular basis. Adjusting recipe sizes, payroll, food cost (very important it is what makes you profitable). It is not enough to be a good cook you also have to have a mind for the business and how to run it profitably. I always believed rather than going to work for the top chef of the moment go work for a guy who has 2-3 restaurants and has been in the business for 30-40 years and has had the same 2-3 restaurants. Learn how he makes the profitable. Learning to make food taste good is not so difficult but learning to run a business profitably is much more challenging.
My culinary school was similar to what Nicko had described. Although a lot of our class mates dropped out half way because that is when you go work in a real restaurant and a lot of students decided to not come back and just work where they were.
Culinary school was fun and I would do it over again but the main takeaways from it for me was building a foundation for your career path. I think the misconception is that culinary school will take anyone and turn them into this amazing chef and then place them in a executive position in some busy city making six figures a year. Culinary school will give you the building blocks to that path but it is ultimately up to the individual to be self motivated, disciplined and hard working to make that work for them.
I often tell people that reading a recipe is like reading sheet music. Once you are taught how to do it you can do all sorts of things, but just because you can doesn't mean you are going to be great at it. Recipes and tastes are subjective and what is really comes down to are all of the other multifaceted aspects of being a cook that also need attention.
Every culinary school is different, Culinary schools or cookery training institutes begin with the fundamental of the kitchenette, learn to cook, pasties, bread baking, chocolate making, cutting vegetables, food presentation and cake decorating.