Parents with children at school please look at this

I have just been reading this league of countries' education systems story. It may be a bit biassed or badly researched for all I know but France is not in the top 20. That will disturb them, they will stamp their feet and say it is all wrong but I am, sadly, not so sure:

Indeed Abigail, indeed Jules Ferry was the minister responsible for the first public education system in the modern world. I believe the next closest thing would be the missionary schools of the Nestorians in the Mongol Empire in the 1260s!

Abigail, thanks that is very illuminating, to say the least.

Last week a group of disgruntled parents, including ourselves, had a meeting with some teachers, the maire and an inspector with regard to serious discontent about the school. For local people the reason appears to be that the previous director was there for a long time and engaged in everything, so not simply an administrator. He retired and his replacement is an end of career teacher who does only what is required of her, nothing more. She seems to be a quite good teacher so the complaints are not aimed at her. The range of complaints was fairly wide. The school is not keeping to the line of the curriculum so that there are reduced hours of sport, creative work and things other than the academic subjects. Some of those are being taught badly. History and geography are bad at best, the one modern language (English) is most certainly badly taught and roughly half of what it should be. The school raised money for IT equipment but now has anybody to be responsible for it because the woman who did that and was part-time librarian as well was no longer able to be employed, along with the secretary. So IT and library are mostly unused. One teacher is proving to be so bad that parents with a university level education being coincidentally a higher number of parents of children in her class have said 'no more' and a complaint was made.

Lots of views and complaints were exchanged. A couple of heated arguments were exchanged. In the end the teachers, maire and inspector took a couple of minutes to put their heads together and decide that it is actually the fault of the parents. We are setting our standards too high!! I have heard it all. After that was pronounced on us one father said that covering the teacher who cannot even teach French grammar correctly and has been corrected by children is disgraceful. In response we were told that we should not expect teachers to know everything. Fair enough, fine, I'll make no bones with that. But now that we have established that the particular locus of our anger has been corrected, including by parents, during previous years but continues to teach the same things as before we have now decided it goes to the regional inspector. One of the discontented parents who is a notaire took minutes of the meeting because none of the people we met had any intention of doing so, now they have told us they intend to take steps to have the use of minutes that were not taken officially blocked. We are also all having to watch closely to make sure our children are not paying the price for our complaints on their behalf. We all took our children with us and have all spoken to them about the meeting since. They have somewhat less trust than they had before, which was not a lot, in the way their school is run.

Cate: absolutely right. We had Pascal Boyer who is now professor of anthropology in St Louis in the USA with us, couple of years behind me as a postgraduate. He could not get his head around Cambridge at first, but once he had then he never wanted back to France and headed off to the USA. There were often postgrads, I had a few MPhils myself, who came and were expected to think for themselves. They were often exceptional students but the notion of 'own research' at masters level shocked them. I saw that right up until eight years ago when I left there. The two systems of teaching, researching, the relationships between students and academics, academics and other academics, etc, are so vastly different that comparison is very difficult.

Coincidence Catharine, but my nephew's daughter (great niece I suppose) is also Daisy. She did As last year and wants to follow in my footsteps except that she wants to be an anthro and I went wanting to be an archaeologist but chose what I did at the end of my first year. She even wants to go to the same place, for her sins. So we went through what she chose for As, looked at previous year's papers and I was gob smacked when I saw them. So she has taken a bit of guidance, not been too creative in her exam work and has the grades to get her place. I advised her to take a year out in order not to go school-uni as many of us did, so she spoke to her cousin who finished two years ago and went for that. Amongst French friends the idea of the year out makes big eyes, they cannot see what is to be gained.

Annette. USA for IT, well there is no longer any real advantage because from what I understand there are now plenty of good European unis offering the highest standard. From what I know, just about everybody who has gone from Europe to the USA without a considerable amount of money behind them finds the going tough. Having said that, with tutorial fees and all the UK is getting tougher, so perhaps not the solution. If he can get one of those not entirely limitless sports scholarships then good for him. For which one it would require someone with a US study and knowledge of IT behind them to advise though.

Does anyone here have any experience with Uni in the States? My middle son is currently working on using his tennis to get him there to study IT.

Broadly speaking yes Catharine. I look at A levels now compared to my own in 1966 and it is strange. They went up and up in standard, now they seem to have slipped down to what people can regurgitate exactly as I did back then. That is great for people like me with photographic memories but for students who think and can give intellectually though out answers it costs marks! That is anachronistic as far as I am concerned, so no saying A better than bac. Plus in France they do try to use the bac as a bridge between college and university anyway, something the UK has never really done as I very often found with first year state school students I supervised until fairly recently after all.

Very interesting thread as so much of it comes down to our own personal experiences.

Quick comment from a friend who was a uni lecturer in the UK and has two daughters. One did her A levels in the UK and one did French bac - both went to uni in the two respective countries. Her opinion is that French bac is more like first year uni level and from my memory of A levels / comparison of what Daisy is doing in literature at bac level and what I did in first year of uni, I would have to agree.

I am certainly not laughing. I know that parts of the Caribbean and South America have incredibly high standard education, not universally but also not uncommonly in cities. I also know that there are many schools in India knock the socks off European schools simply because the country is driven to pull itself up and succeed, there are also places that bring tears to one's eyes they are so bad. I have been in schools in Viet Nam as part of my work and impressed. Good old Cuba that everybody politely avoids mentioning, teaches English at primary level that was so good that I did not need to use Spanish to talk to happy primary school children. Get that word, happy. Their level of maths, science and the arts are very high too. I think very few of the surveys are actually child inclusive, therefore do not measure education from their perspective. But then I would say that, wouldn't I, from a professional position...

German and Swiss schools, both of which I know well, are very structured but largely far more liberal than French. Teachers are trained to be teachers, they are not as many teachers here 'refugees' from another job who do a relatively short and comparatively narrow course. Many UK teachers, for example, do a three year degree in subject X and then begin two or three years of teacher training but are then still obliged to do numerous courses over their career. My primary school teacher sister-in-law in Switzerland was six years before she got a proper job, until then only placements under supervision of the most experienced teachers with teacher training qualifications. Now she is in her fifties and still doing courses to keep up to date but is still not (yet) qualified as a teacher trainer. If Hollande's reforms achieve even some of that then they are on the way.

From my point of view, with a teacher who humiliates children for making errors, who teaches that the Rhine and Rhône connect to form the French border, that Buddha is a god, Charlemagne was French and other such misinformation, and in previous threads we have seen worse than those, French education is in serious need of change. It is early education in particular that gives any nation its outstanding people for innovation, leadership and all else and somehow it seems this country is missing its vocation. I'm not even saying that as a go at them, I think France needs a wake-up call before things do slip and education is one of the keys to success.

I actually find this unbelievable....

You may laugh, but my daughter was educated in Jamaica for a year while I took my final year at Uni in London and her father was working out there. So she lived there for a year, and when she came back she was so far ahead of what was being taught in her class in London that she almost lost interest in her schoolwork completely. I think it was embarrassing.
She has only been at school here in France since September so it is too soon to say for sure, with the language being an obvious reason she hasn't really learned anything 'new'. But I don't so much doubt that France is doing badly as I doubt that the UK is doing so well.

I mean, they came ahead of Germany?! Having attended University with a huge number of German students, I find this really hard to believe.

I am stating my opinion here of course, not suggesting I can factually back up my opinion, just going by my own experience.

I've already read it too Brian and France can do all the foot stamping they want. Unfortunately the results don't surprise me at all. Actually, that Russia would be in front of France raised my eyebrows, but still.

Sigh. It's time for an education revolution!!!

At a recent wedding we met a French university lecturer who had worked in Glasgow, he is now in Sheffield and thoroughly enjoying the fact that his input to his Department is valued and the freedom he has to teach in his own way. No plans to return to France at all.

The survey Heather is linking to is more representative of where I would expect to find the UK. There I feel that at school level it is realistic. I taught in universities too long to even begin to believe they are perfect, not UK ones for sure, nor German and the little bits and pieces I did elsewhere. French education at primary level looks and feels in content and style of teaching what I was doing in the 1950s and 60s. It is rote learning with almost no room for creative thought, so poor intellectual development for all but exceptional pupils/students who will survive in any learning environment. Teachers are poorly trained compared to most other countries, but of course there are still fantastic teachers among them.

Primary maths is very good, which is not helped by a bad tempered teacher who shouts down children who gives wrong answers and appears to not be capable of explaining thing well. However, they are effectively two years ahead of many other European children. The rest is bland and repetitive with many more inaccuracies taught than seems fair in my mind.

I saw that Brian but maybe they didn't participate? So far (not that far but 4 terms!) we are happy with our village school. We do feel however that a bilingual (at least) child is likely to outstrip some local educational facilities. I even thought about sending our daughter to boading school in the UK eventually but can't really afford it. I am also enjoying her company much more than was possible with me and my parents and my sons in the UK who I hardly ever saw and who boarded like me from 7. Hopefully we aren't completely devoid of connection withe human race however and no it was not Eton in any of the cases (not too far away though!).

I remember when we returned to the UK and my son had to go back to working in 10s in P3 -he was miles ahead of the other kids his age- Maths I feel is very strong in France. check this report out

Alot will depend on your view point, your child’s character and how they like to learn…One huge beneftt is that kids have to pass a year, so they do all achieve certain targets. Our 16 year old is currently in premiere and is doing well, but he is very organized and focussed and thrives on the learn / test environment here - so the system works very well for him and having out 2 older sons through the state system in the UK both of whom went to university and got good degrees, I can only say that the science and maths our youngest is doing is in advance of what his brothers did under the UK system.

But I fully accept that had he been dyslexic as one of his brothers the focus / style of teaching would not have suited…

Our son is already looking to university and from what we have seen as he wants to do medicine, a foundation year in science that needs to be passed is a required entry and seems quite sensible.

In my opinion both the British education system and University system in the UK are superior to most France has to offer. French education is far too narrow and does not encourage independent thought.

Most universities follow this pattern too and friends who have been to both say that British Universities are superior, the teaching staff more knowledgeable, numbers lower and the facilities better . My own experience and that of my family bears this out.

So it doesn't surprise me in the least.


I would personally not take this article too seriously. In every country around the globe there are good schools and terrible ones. The real question to be asked is what are they teaching our children? I question daily the textbooks that are used (all around the world they are outdated..., even vet school standard text books have errors and yet they still teach it! Each country also has it's own agenda when setting a curriculum.
Here we sit with overcrowded classes, underfunded resources or the choice to go private and hope you have invested

For us our hope is to grow smart adults that can be self sufficent and happy. Schooling is necessary and certain achievements non negotiable (reading, writing, maths), but I am sure many hours of school time is worthless.
What I do feel is important is that whilst the child is schooling, a positive environment and opportunities to explore extra mural activities, and to become "well rounded" members of society are more important than having the top academic achievements alone.
How much of our "schooling" do we really use in day to day life and what other skills do we use that school doesn't teach us? If education is to move forward it needs to explore what is relevant in today's world in 2012. After all the original concept of schooling was introduced as a way of nuturing children to become civil servants and to follow directives compliantly!!!
I don't think there is a single person here that fits that bill.......mmmmmm

This is a tricky one, different systems suit different children. A child with high self-esteem can do ANYTHING. Look at the children, are they happy?

Being German, I'm used to going to school only in the mornings, until the age of 12. So I find school for my children, who are both at a "collège privé" here in France, very hard. Very long days, and still homework to do when they come back at 17h45. I obviously don't know the curriculum in Germany nowadays, but also the work they do is very hard and difficult. Seeing what my daughter does in geometry in 6ème, is just unbelievable. But numbers? Learn the tables above 10? Seems not to be taught anymore... I just heard that the curriculum will get even harder - maybe as a result of their ranking?