Wednesday, 10 September 2008

If you are thinking of sending your kid to a French school...

My teenager has been educated in the French system most of her life. Now she is in the British section of her French school. Things are very different. At the end of each class the teachers says stuff like "Well done. You all did very well today"to a bemused class. This is unheard of in the French system for they do not believe in encouraging pupils with positive praise.
Her friend, who is still in the French section, has already written 30 pages in her folder and they have only been back a week. My daughter has written a mere 3 pages. She says that her hand used to ache at the end of the day. 
Other differences: in the French system, History and Geography are combined, as are Chemistry and Physics. 
In the British system Maths is applied. In the French system, every rule is justified with written sentences whereas British Maths is explained via mathematics itself. You use a sum to explain a sum.
Equally, in Chemistry, just like in Maths, it's more applied, with less recalling of facts. You are encouraged to use your knowledge to explain a theory. Tell us a fact, then use that fact to explain.
e.g. Rate of reaction in Chemistry, the pupils will do a practical experiment and then use that to account for the results. Nor is the explanation set in stone.

This difference in teaching technique has a huge influence on how the French and the British approach life. The French come up with a theory, a priori, and then prove it on a practical level. The Anglo-Saxon way is empirical; form your theory based on practical experience.

In History and Geography, the British teach in terms of topics, for instance: coastal management. The French, on the other hand, spend several weeks on a particular part of the world, covering all aspects of it's geography and history.(Personally I prefer this, it becomes more of a story and easier to remember).  
In the French system, pupils are regularly expected to do 'exposés', that is, speaking aloud to the class on a subject for at least ten minutes. (I think this is a great idea).

Handwriting and presentation is very important in the French system. Every pupil has the same handwriting. Essays have a strict format: pupil's name, class, date, number of the question in brackets, recopying the question in it's entirety, then precisely 4 lines below one may begin the answer. Margin size, ink colour are all prescribed. It's not like the British system in which you get brownie points just for writing your name correctly.

Another big difference: in the French system there is no pastoral care. The teachers consider that they are there to teach a subject academically and that's it. Teachers are civil servants. They are not there to deal with or even recognize that a pupil might have personal problems or difficult circumstances at home.

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