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French education is hard


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I don't mean academically, because it's mostly just learning by rote. I mean the whole system, the whole ethos is hard on children.

You know that weird thing in Britain where bright kids are liable to get picked on for being brainy swots, so it doesn't always pay to do well? That doesn't happen so much here, BUT it's only because the fear of getting mauvaises notes overrides everything.

Parents are so hard on their children, they really do push them. Mauvaises notes means trouble - grounding, birthday parties cancelled, you name it. You have to witness this for yourself, it's so ingrained and "normal" that no French parent would even think it worth mentioning. "Never mind, you did your best" just isn't an option!

A neighbouring village has yet another teacher (CM2) who will take a piece of artwork, hold it up in front of the class, saying "this is rubbish, this is maternelle level, I won't accept this" and tears it up and throws it in the bin. I suppose this is meant to toughen the children up or something?

What do you think?
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Yes it is hard here. My kids had to grow up both mentally and academically when they both went to collge. There have been many tears because of the teacher shouting at either one of them or they just couldn't take the pressure with test after test and reports every quarter and the racism towards the english from a few kids. However,I will say that compared to their cousins still in the UK, they have been turned into more studious,conscientious and respectful teenagers than we could ever have hoped for and both are now working hard towards their future careers here.
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In spite of the ethos of hard work a worrying proportion of French people do not learn to read or write effectively although they are capable of doing so.
Children do not learn to learn at all, thinking for oneself is not valued, conformity is.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Adding my thoughts to this thread is probably a bit late,but maybe someone will benefit. I teach English in the Primaire schools and there are benefits and disadvantages on both sides. The discipline is frightening however it does work and there is respect for teachers, something very much lacking in the UK. I am certainly not an advocate of Rote learning and it is this issue that I tussle with all the time. As a youngster I would have failed miserably under the french system as I would not have met 'the good pupil' criteria as I lean towards creativity. My daughter is five and extremely creative and bright and my fear is the system might try to hinder her creative streak. I love France dearly, but when she reaches 11 I will seriously consider alternative schooling. I myself studied in another european country (Holland)as well as the UK for my degree and became fully aware of different systems then - you just simply cannot beat a good British school followed by a good British Uni which promotes opinions and encourages knowledge. I fear if my children have any problems (+ being by default english) this could hinder them. I have seen myself that the french schools see children who do not meet the standards as 'children with problems' and soforth categorise them in order to make their teaching life easier. On a plus point, I simply cannot stand the peer pressure (both media icons and social class) which is very prevailent in UK schools. If only we could pick the best bits of both systems.....

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  • 3 weeks later...
This is my first posting on the bulletin board, so I'm sorry if the message is a little long! I was introduced to the web site a week ago and have been exploring various topics ever since. I felt that I had to put a more positive side to the comments on French education being hard as if Id read all these bad experiences before we left England, we would have cancelled our plans and remained in the UK!

Firstly I should say that I respect other peoples experiences. There are obviously a few people whose children have had a terrible time. I feel great sympathy with all of them because for children school takes up such a large part of their time and a bad experience reduces confidence and impacts on other parts of their lives. There are however bound to be a good number of children who have had a positive experience in the French school system. There are good schools and bad schools in France and the UK not to mention good teachers and bad teachers.

We only have experience of primary school and that itself is limited to one and a half school years but Id like to share our views so that other potentially anxious parents dont give up before they try. I know that a lot of the postings on the bulleting board refer to college and beyond but it seems to me that the primary system has a lot to offer.

Our son was rising 6 when he came to live in France. He had completed Reception class in England and was a confident and outgoing child. He started CP in a private school in a large town about 15 minutes drive away. You probably know that private school in France is quite different from that in the UK. We pay 40 Euros a month for his lunches and 10 Euros a month for the education. Our house is very rural, so we chose to send him to a medium-sized school in the nearest town rather than a small school in the nearby village. We also chose the school for its interest in sport and its church ethos. We were looking for a school with a community spirit similar to that of his C of E infant school in the UK.

The school has more than lived up to our hopes and expectations. He is the only English child in the primary school but has been welcomed and valued for his difference. In CP he was taught in French and English until mid-February and then given a weeks notice that he would be taught in French after that. His CP teacher was a very creative man. He spent half an hour a day for a couple of weeks teaching the children using only body language, pointing to things on the board, using his hands and expressions and then pointing to the children to suggest that they should do something - maths, reading etc. When the children said that they didnt understand him, the teacher replied that they needed to realise that David felt like that during the whole of his school day; that he didnt speak any French and so had to work out what was going on through body language!

I am not saying that everything was easy, merely that the school did everything they could to manage his transition into their way of life. David is now in CE1 and loving it. He comes home daily with stories of what theyve done today, demands plastic bottles, upturned plates and straws so that he can show us their science experiment and enjoys correcting my accent.

I am as happy with this school as I was with his excellent infant school in the UK. The staff are caring and the children are taught to respect the teachers and other pupils. Manners are important and the children learn to be part of the wider community. I dont know what the secondary school system holds for us; were taking it a bit at a time, but at the moment we have an optimistic view of the future.

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I'm glad to see the recent additions to this thread giving a more balanced view of the French education system.

The hardest part of schooling out here is the rhythm. Because the Brevet and Baccalaureat examinations assess the pupil's global performance - unlike the subject specific GCSE and A level; this means that pupils have to be reasonably good at everything and voil the root of the problem.

As a language teacher, having worked in secondary schools in Britain before taking on the cole primaire, collge and lyce out here, the fundamental difference between the two systems is that in Britain the philosophy of teaching is "Show me what you know", whereas in France it is "Show me what you don't know."

There will be an article in the next "Impressions" magazine about this very subject. But before I get on with the next one, I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has a tale to tell about the education of their little darling(s), particularly with regard to language problems and any help (or lack of) offered by the school.

Apparently EVERY non-French child is entitled to specialist help with learning the language. I run a private language school where I teach Britkids and adults and I am yet to meet anyone in the Civray/Charroux area who has received this assistance.

If you have any experiences to share or would like any advice please get in touch.

Merci en avance et bon courage

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  • 2 weeks later...
Sorry for changing tack,but I have just had an experience in ecole maternal CP class that I remember reading about perhaps some 12 months ago on here and at the time laughing.
My youngest came home early this week with a letter asking for `Mamans qui diseponsibles` for friday to walk the class to the sports field, OK I`ll come I tell her , tell teacher.
So off I trot this pm to school.The walk to the sport area is about 3/4 of a mile ,21 children aged 6/7 .. no problem.
Arrive at said field ,balls the size of tennis ones are produced along with hoola hoops, we split into groups (1 teacher ,2 mamans and my eldest daughter aged 10 whose schoo lis on an inspection day) and I am promply given a lesson on how to throw a ball correctly!
Now in my experience and oppinion girls can`t throw overarm but no I am informed this is how to correctly lancer a ball..OK, next how to trow a hoola hoop!!! the teacher showed how not to do it (boomerang style) and nearly garotted a child!
My next hour was spent trying to teach children how to throw these things correctly ,with one of my charges not knowing which hand she wrote with as she didnt look comfortable with either!
Lesson over and we all go for a drink of water .. then Maitresse asked me if the children had any problems ..at which my eldest started to giggle at the serriousness of the situation.
So yes the education is hard but so is the leisure!

I wonder if I will be asked back next week?

So forget learning the beautifull handwriting get out there and show your young offspring the importance of throwing a ball!!
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  • 1 month later...
I have three daughters, the oldest of whom was tossed into a very small vilage school in the middle of nowhere at the age of 8. She spoke not one word of French. From somewhere, I know not where, they found her a teacher who held her hand for about three months, until the end of the school year. I'd promised to take her to Paris when her French was of an acceptable standard; we went in August.

The younger two have been solely educated in France. One is now in CM2 at a private school, the other is in CM1 at a public school (after 5 years at the private one).

Their major problem is trying to stay awake in English class!
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