Calling all parents with children at school!

I hope some of you have been keeping up with the developments in Hollande's education reforms over the last few weeks. Well, now that seem to be more or less done and dusted.

What is now certain is that beginning school year 2013 there will be an increased school week to four and a half days. Children will go to school on Wednesday morning again. Homework will no longer be homework, since it will be considerably reduced and done at school. The school day will be a bit shorter. There are other things to sort out or give clear information on. One of the things that guided Hollande was that French education is lagging behind other European countries, the hours and school starting age were disparate and needed to be addressed.

Also, and highly significant, is that schools of teacher training are to be set up. Up until now it was not taught as a distinct profession as it is in other countries. Starting next year there will be teacher training courses and actual qualifications in education.

Look out for more detailed information on these important reforms as they appear in the very near future.

With you. There absolutely ace teachers out there. One is a good friend who I get up to all kinds of rubbish with but ask children and parents (I have had one through his class) about him and then the other is the one who is taking action about things not working at our childrens' primary. Some of the teachers should not be there. Subjectively, I would say it is easy to guess which side of the fence your OH is on. But Veronique's criticism is justifiable for too many schools... Something must happen, good teachers would also be beneficiaries of good things so let us all hope.

I think universities everywhere have big problems. Expectations are often far too high. It is easy to say the students are not up to standard but I was in Cambridge from 1966 as an undergrad to 2004 higher up the food chain and then had five years part time at another university where my OH taught and researched full time. In my time I was also involved with other universities in the UK and other countries inlcluding as a lecturer as well as a researcher. I know the old timers say it so often, but this time I think it is now true to say that people teaching in universities are nothing like as good as they were. It is a bad career choice, the prssures to do research, publish and teach, mark, mentor, tutor and all else that somehow come together in part or sometimes in their entirety are a disincentive. People who cannot do much else stay now. It was the opposite way round 20 or so years ago only, including here in France. The expectations are built up to an unrealistic level, pushy parents shove their kids through BAC as too through A levels, Abitur, etc and degrees are also becoming bits of paper to prove they are too good to work at MacDo although that is the only job they could find.

I have people ask me if I can help their children get into Cambridge because it is big and famous and I simply say that they better start making up for the failure of the delivery of langues vivant from the national curriculum to get them up to near perfection in time for the interview if their exam grades are high enough. They tend to think again and drop the subject. I actually wish they would get the kids up to standard and try..

No, didn't take it as an attack, and yes peer review can be gruelling. I seem to have survived publishing since the early 70s so try to be thorough and not have to justify speculative 'findings' (that find nothing too often). Ethnomethodology is unique in the way we can present data descriptively as well and without analytical work. I am a Claude Lévi-Strauss man rather than Frazerian and need a good dose of epistemological work before I feel I have done anything... Bit French of me perhaps, but when I was taught by his big rival Edmund Leach I just had to go out and look at the 'other side'. Big studies, yep loads of stats and generating them too in their now vast variety but for small scale qualitative they look rather feeble.

Seems to reflect what I heard on the radio. Better than nothing - I suppose.

Here is the latest update from DossierFamilliale which is normally fairly accurate

You scientists! For something like an eight page article using ethnographic material we hardly need to do a major study, if somebody gives us a grant then that is another story. The sample would be hundreds. Good qualitative work concentrates on the amount and quality of time spent with research subjects, not the numbers of them. Analysis would be done by induction of our sample, thus looking for common traits in different areas, schools/institutions, children and parents - or looking for the regular recurrence of specific phenomena or events.

PS: I never knock large samples, long term science studies because we are such different domains. However, I did spend between 1969 and 87 as part of a research team on one piece of work, albeit it sandwiched between other work for most of that time. So we do also do big sample, long term jobs in fairly large teams sometimes.

I have known Ursula for for a long time, I would love to have her over.

Celeste, wonderful idea but I would not know how. I know universities well but schools... Time and money too and with her already 11 our daughter would get little benefit. We may go for home education eventually, IF we can get a part time arrangement with the powers that be and SESSAD.

I was a school governor in Swansea and became the link govern for SEN because I was asked to having a child receiving it. I know the English/Welsh system as was a few years back with the embellishments from the Welsh Assembly fairly well. I was also link governor for children's rights for obvious reasons and worked directly with the school children's and joint children and teachers councils that included representatives of SEN specifically. It was all integrated but it was above all else education and not a socio-medical 'treatment' process. I cannot imagine what an uphill climb it would be to get anything comparable here. I'll look at Sinnott but then it is only half of the problem. We have the other 'normal' child amongst her peers and what Veronique says about describes their lot. It is antedeluvidarian as far as I am concerned and disturbs me a lot, some parents are willing to be proactive but only a minority, the rest remain passive which does not help at all.

Thank you Veronique, very explicit and simple.

What British and French (social) anthropology share despite never really getting away from the eternal Leech versus Lévi-Strauss debate, is that they are qualitative, which is to say fieldwork based, rather than the empirical and 'laboratory' dased stuff of the USA (who are mainly crap anyway with exceptions). So we will find a good size sample, 20 plus at least, then do what is within the framework of our normal working methods and then analyse accordingly on the basis of methodologically given questions such as 'agency', 'social capital through education' and teh we have it. Takes many months, but in our terms a quickie. Not quite what you scientific people do but then I am the first in line to say providence we have both and so the best of both serves the world well.

As for cartesian and blaise, well I reckon the latter and in this case Jane Fondue as Modesty Blaise! We had to punish a bit at that meeting because we had some bullxxxx about France having the best child psychologists in the world. Knowing several dozen of that species myself, I would say that put up against Norwegian or Swedish colleagues our French friends would scarper after five minutes.

As for self-diagnosis, no never. I have several medics on the case now. I have just done a test for Lymes disease because one saw comparable symptoms to mine in two patients. Low chance, but he said blood and look, so all avenues finally be explored... Well beyond a social scientist to even know 1% of that stuff, CHU can have me... Poor them.

Fieldwork based and including children as informants, what else would you expect from anthropologists who also campaign for the full citizenship rights of children? No stats, not clever things to rely on when looking at quality rather than quantity of data are they.

I was teaching students when newshounds descended on Cambridge because we had our first undergraduate with Downs. He eventually went somewhere else after and got an MA is whichever subject. I simply cannot happen here where 'special education' concentrates on French and maths and two hours a day between 6 and 16 at that! The place we visited where the director told us that is well equipped, probably a brilliant environment for children, she was certainly intelligent, nice and so on but she believed what she was saying and when we questioned it and compared to Switzerland, the UK and Germany since those are the places we know best, she only had one answer. "This is France". Not good enough, not her fault, must change and our daughter is not going there, end of story. We want her to have a chance in life, no matter how small, not automatic consignment to the scrapheap of life. So, since we know other people in similar predicaments and also I have had contact with others through SFN, we are going to build on it and do a proper research. Our own child will not benefit one little bit, so basically it is altruism because the system stinks here.

Open the bottle Cate, have had some already and more shall follow. ;-)

Just as it was in Wales. Our 11 year old came here more literate than she is now and all because school rules said she had to write in cursive rtaher than block which she found far harder than learning French. So the one year only trained former photographer of her class all but gave up on her. No favouritism because she is ours, but we have seen how dismal special needs are and will be working on it soon. Evidence based though Cate.

Ursula Kilkelly, big in children's rights and protection, comes from the education background in Ireland. If she looked at this country she would burst several blood vessels. I am tempted to invite her over to have a look.

100 out of 100, except the 'make stuff up', we simply trust what you scientific people rely on which is evidence based, whereas we trust our informants. More fool us sometimes, but otherwise, yes, pinches of salt are nothing compared to the pig's breakfast called education at present. Hollande, solution, best not put in a single sentence...

hihihihihi ;-)

OK, we agree. I am not at all well versed in the topic, but am disturbed by what I see, hear and read so allow me gross inaccuracy, which I am sure quite a lot is. I am informed by people with opinions and as a social scientist accept that an awful lot of what we non-science based lot do is speculative, opinion-based, often general rather than specific but then the old addage 'no smoke without fire' does have some foundation. The example you give from your son's school comes up trumps for nasty, but rewriting forgotten homework 15 times during break at the other end of the spectrum are all unjust (the daughter of our Canada trained teacher friend at that) and then see the ones in the parents' sites between. No one single thing fits all but symptoms, I believe, are sign of something being unwell.


Oooh wonderful!! Would love to talk to you about what your 7 year old is doing. I'm in Toulouse where there is already one bilingual school ( more English than bilingual actually) and too much demand for the public 'bilingual' collège! Let me know when you'd like a chat and we'll fix a time to talk. I'll have lots of questions to plague you with ;-)


I totally agree Angela.

Brian, I would add one thing. As well as 'properly' training teachers, there are a lot of parents out there who need to be 'properly educated and trained' as well. There isn't enough clear communication about the role of education in building the strength of a country. And I agree wholeheartedly with you - a country that lets their education system slip is in peril.

Angela, whereabouts in France are you? We are in Amiens. My 2 daughters are in 5ème and I would love them to go to a bilingual collège. The only ones I have seen are in Lille and Paris, all boarding and cost a fortune...My 7yr old goes to a private primary school who are going over to 'Inspiration Décrolyenne 'classes which are enquiry based learning. there are only 2 in France apparently as the teachers go to Belgium for training.We have mixed feelings about it. I'd love to talk to you more on these subjects;

Angela (another one!)