French Schools


French Education: Too Tough?

I'm just going to say it. America is slacking in the education department. Our system is just not working. So for me it's refreshing to be here in France where so much importance is placed on education. But as I find the French education refreshing, many people in France are not happy with it. Yes I can see some of its imperfections, especially when some of European neighbors are offering free education, but I still find it so much better than our system in the US. So what is it about French education that the parents aren't happy about?

Some parents think that their children go to school too much. In the new laws, kids go to school from 9am to 4pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Wednesday they go to school from 9am to 12pm. Ok first off I'm trying to wrap my mind around the fact that they only have 4 full days of school and people aren't happy with it. And while I like getting out at 3pm from school, I like sleeping in even more. So instead of 8am classes they have 9am classes. So most kids don't have to get up at 6am to go to school. Isn't that nice?! But I get why parents think that those are long days. Because everything going on in the classroom is hard and exhausting.

I've heard complaints about the curriculum. How the students have too much work but aren't learning enough. Keeping up with the amount of work a French student does is hard because they have so much. The fifth grader that I watch has more homework than I did in my junior year of high school. They're constantly being challenged. But none of this work appears to be busy work. Everything has a purpose in a meaning, which I find so much better than the busy work that so many teachers give. But they think that they are behind compared to the  rest of the world. But just because they aren't like Sweden doesn't mean that they aren't doing something right. These kids actually learn things because their content level is higher than that in the US.

Next comes the issue of money. Many people complain how expensive private school is here in France. Let's just say that the family that I work for send their three students to school for less than tuition at my my brother's school. How is that possible? And I did the conversion in euros too! And they say it's too expensive. If it were me I wouldn't complain but I also understand it because I'm one of those that wants education to be free to everyone. But still? That's the price of private school?

The part that I have a hard time with in the French education is their lack of adaption to different learning styles and abilities. Teachers are constantly demanding the best from students. If a student falls behind, the teacher will do what they can to help them, but sometimes they just get lost in the competition and the pressure. Education is highly competitive here. You need to be the best in your class. And even standardized tests, in order to pass them you need to be in the top percentile of the others who took it. If you're number 1234 and the cut off is 1230, then you didn't pass.  I do like that they don't pass along students from grade to grade. You have to earn the right to move up a grade. But that adds more stress. I'm a fan of teaching to encourage students to strive to do their best but also to teach to different levels so that all students can achieve this. I don't like adding unnecessary stress to students. I'm not saying No Child Left Behind worked, but I think that we need to remember to teach at a high level while helping those that are having a harder time. Let me just say that being here in France is hopefully making me a better teacher because I am seeing other ways that may provide a better education to students.

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