Your opinion on the French school system

French schools have a reputation for rigidity and pressure, with a French sociologist recently telling The Connexion that: “The system is built so that you never achieve excellence”.

Read more: Education: does the French school deserve its bad reputation?

We asked Report readers about their experiences of the French system, and while some said their children were “happy” at school, others criticized its “inflexible” and “elitist” nature.

“We found the teachers dedicated, kind and helpful”

Credit: Jennifer Clayton

Jennifer Clayton lives in Brittany with her husband Peter and her sons Jake (20) and Samuel (13) and has run a gite for 15 years. She said, “I think there’s a lot of emphasis on rote learning: poems in primary, then dates and historical events or chemical formulas in middle School.

“There seem to be few provisions for children that don’t fit the standard model of learning. My two got along pretty well, but I’ve heard from friends who had a lot more difficulty.

Ms Clayton added that Jake, who is now in his second year of university in Angers, and Samuel, who is currently in fourth, were both “happy overall. We found the teachers dedicated, kind and helpful, almost without exception.

“Jake was a internal (internal) during his high school years, and I think he would be the first to admit that he focused more on the social side than the academic side, and didn’t get the high school diploma he was capable of (not helped by the confinement That is).

“But he has had offers from UK universities and is very happy with his university French course (Applicable foreign languages).

“I think overall it’s a great system and I know my two have had opportunities and possibilities they never would have had had we stayed in the UK for their studies.

“Besides being truly bilingual, we would never have had the time or the money to organize the sports and other activities they had the opportunity to try. [if we were] United Kingdom.

“I think it’s especially important to maintain their written English as well as just chatting over dinner. So they both studied the UK curriculum online (with Blackhen Education which was superb) to IGCSE level.

“They settled in well and got good grades, I’m sure for students with learning difficulties or other issues it might not be as positive.”

Read more: Summary of French education: bac exams, school exchange deadline, career assistance

“For me, it was a nightmare”

Credit: Helen Magnusson/ The Guest House, Chamonix

Helen Magnusson, who runs a bed and breakfast in Chamonix with her husband, also had two sons, Sébastien and Alexandre, who were educated entirely in France.

Ms. Magnusson is Swedish, so her children grew up speaking English and Swedish at home.

“My eldest son is 18 now and doing his A-levels, and my youngest is 16 so he just did a year in high school,” she told The Connection.

“For me, it was a nightmare. If I could have put my children elsewhere I would have done it. I find him very authoritarian; they don’t listen to children. Children are not allowed to be children: they should sit down, be quiet and do as they are told.

“There is no flexibility, empathy or understanding that children are all different. If you don’t match exactly’in the mold‘ (in the mould) then it’s not easy.

She added that her sons “have been really unhappy. My eldest son was told by teachers that he is ‘bad‘ (waste).

“It’s a very international community here in Chamonix, and I hear that from a lot of foreigners who have children here. They get humiliated by the teachers in front of the class, they get put down, there is very little encouragement: they always point out what they are not good at.

“They start school too young”

“We don’t speak French at home, but when they were in primary school, their headmaster told me that you really shouldn’t speak English or Swedish at home. [So] there is not much support for children whose families are not French, who may need a little more help with the French language.

“Even with the English language, teachers won’t take corrections from bilingual children who speak it at a completely different level,” Ms Magnusson added.

“Because I have a guest rooms I have a lot of French clients and I have yet to meet a Frenchman, young or old, who can say that he liked the school.

“I have very fond memories of my school days in Sweden. I never saw someone shot down in front of the whole class. I don’t know how it is now but [when I was there] they listened more, were more friendly and less authoritarian.

“I also think they start school too early at age three. Although suitable [primary] school starts at age six, you’re still in the school system which is much, much more rigid than daycare. So there are long days and high expectations everywhere, and for some reason the knowledge bar always seems to be set too high. It’s very elitist.

“That attitude stays with them all through school and I would say France is losing a lot of talent because it’s all in math and science and French and they don’t appreciate you being good at art or languages. for example. The [former] are more weighted than other subjects, so those who work very hard and have very good grades in something else will never get the best grades.

“The whole thing is very unsympathetic, inflexible, too rigid and it breaks my heart; I can’t wait for mine to be finished. I love France but I hate school.

“Some students are inspired and others feel left out”

A retired English teacher living just outside Paris, who preferred not to be named in this article, said: “In French, they talk about a philosophy of ‘pulling up’ (pulling students upwards), which means that if the course is so difficult that only a few bright students pass, it will stimulate others to want to raise their skill level.

“And if you think it’s over when you graduate, think again, because raises and promotions are often based on competitions that take place in a similar mood in many places,” our reader added, who has taught the general public, university students, professors and researchers during his career.

“I could answer the question categorically and say that French education is too rigid and that students generally do better with less hierarchical methods. However, this would involve my own “Anglo-Saxon” criteria.

“It is difficult to make generalizations about the French education system, in part because it both originates from and reflects French culture, as opposed to teaching methods from other places.

“Some students are inspired and others feel left out. Those who benefited from this system were certainly the most competitive or those who were naturally intelligent. Students with other mindsets had to go through their educational experience motivating themselves because motivation did not come from school.

“Many of them enjoyed learning in the friendlier atmosphere of my classes which they generally hailed as ‘less scholarly’ during the feedback sessions.

“The important thing is to stimulate the student in a way that he understands”

“I find that people in France have a greater ability to understand and absorb large amounts of abstract input, and carry a lot more information in their heads than their counterparts in other countries.

“I found that the French’s love of mental comprehension often interfered with the other abilities needed to learn and produce language, the more physical demands of pronunciation, and the need to piece together comprehension when the e encounter a language that you don’t understand, and I insisted on giving more importance to these skills than to understanding the rules of grammar.

“Having lived almost 50 years among these people, I discovered that their criteria are very different from mine, the things they want to get out of education are different from what I wanted to get out of it when I was studying in them. UNITED STATES.

“With my French teacher at the University of Los Angeles, I was drawn to her teaching because she was stricter and expected more of her students than the less demanding American teachers who didn’t challenge me enough.

“The important thing is to stimulate the student in a way that they can understand, and each culture has different ideas of how to do this, stemming from their traditions and their evolution.

“For example, the French, unlike the Americans (and I guess people from other English-speaking countries), correct themselves in public when someone slips up and makes a mistake in their native French language. Everyone is used to that. here.

“In my English conversation classes, I already noted the mistakes made to discuss them at the end of the class, and I asked the participants not to correct the mistakes of others, no matter how blatant. It was incredibly difficult to put into practice for many of them, who were shouting a correction from across the room because they couldn’t bear to hear the error.

“I’ve had a lot of people correct me mid-sentence like that. Personally, I don’t appreciate this embarrassing interruption, but I’ve come to realize that these people are trying to help me the only way they know how, and it’s not overkill or rudeness.

“French students in a language class expect to be corrected and there is a received idea in France about learning the language that if you are not corrected at the very moment you do an error, we forget the correction.

“Before class started, I explained a bit about what’s called the ‘affective filter’, that being corrected makes someone so self-aware that they make more little mistakes because their mind is busy avoiding the fat ones.

“It has always taken several weeks of lessons before the students adapt to these ideas and the atmosphere thus created has improved the conversation skills of many people who were totally stuck at the start of the year.

“I don’t think any education system is perfect, and certainly the best ones are hybrid, and I’m happy to see the French education system opening up, sometimes to the chagrin of parents attached to more traditional behavior. a class.

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