Monday, May 19, 2008

Go Private!

I really think I've had it with French public education beyond primary school. Last Thursday my eldest was home because his teachers were on strike, having just had the Monday off, the previous Thursday off and, for some the following Friday too to make a nice long weekend.

Last Friday I went to see the Directeur of the private school my eldest will go to from September. He was one of those not terribly tall cuddly bear type men, with a gleam of intelligence and vocation in his eyes. You look into the eyes of a public school teacher and see depression, indifference, apathy.

He told me that he is able to choose which teachers form part of his staff, unlike in public schools. This has enabled him to build up a solid team of teachers who all pull in the same direction. Public school teachers are imposed by a national education body so it's no surprise that half of them are depressed and if they had a vocation to start with, it soon gets drained away by the lack of personal determination.

He can also choose which pupils are accepted, and takes only nice kids. They don't have to be super brainy, but he won't take trouble-makers. This means that there is no violence, theft or bullying in the school. There are also only 400 kids. There are nearly 800 in my eldest's present collège.

While the buildings might be a bit dilapidated, the money they have is spent on improving the equipment - at the moment a new science lab is under way. I'd rather he sit at an old desk and feel enthusiastic about learning than at a state-of-the-art ergonomic table and feel uninvolved. The school has a good success rate and then feeds into the best private lycées in Hérault. At 150Eur per month fees, it strikes me as being a bargain. Of course, the journey there and back is going to be a pain in the backside, but with a bit of car-pooling, I'm sure we'll manage.

My youngest is doing okay in primary school, but as soon as he's off to collège, he'll be out of the public system and into private education. No strikes, enthusiastic teachers, nice peers, and access to a good education all round - who would choose otherwise?

My kids are not guinea pigs in a social experiment. The world after school is too big and nasty to be farting around with absent teachers who don't give a shit.


  1. Sounds like an absolute bargain and a lovely school. My daughter's education is going to cost us four times that per month and I think it's worth it. Small classes, well behaved children, properly qualified and enthusiastic staff are a recipe for success. Go for it!

  2. Now at the beginning of the week I enquire which days they WILL be going in ........

  3. My eldest was told yesterday that classes will be finished by mid-June so if parents want to take their kids away from then they can.

    As half his teachers have been absent for much of the year, and not replaced, I'm astonished. They can't possibly have got through the year's work. Still, from what I hear, cinquième is sixième bis, so the same topics plus a little bit extra. Sounds fascinating...

  4. Found you via Sam. I used to live in France, and my two kids still live there with their father.

    I agree with what you say about public education beyond primary school. My daughter is in 5ème as well, and while I wasn't aware of the strikes, I wonder about her education and how she'll start to be "channeled" in the next few years.

    Anyway, just wanted to commiserate or something.

  5. Our 3 kids are all in private schools here in the Vendee and they, and we, are very happy with their education. My eldest was rather disappointed though when hers was the only college NOT closed due to the strike the other day :)

  6. I've been working as a teaching assistant in four public primary schools for the last 9 months and I can say you are making the right decision, totally! any kids who aren't doing well, who have problems in certain areas or behaviour issues are written off and ignored by grade two.

  7. Thanks, Alison. My only consolation is that the British public system seems even worse.

    Glad to hear your kids are doing okay, Richard in the private sector. That is encouraging!

    Tigre, thanks for giving the inside view!

  8. What good timing...I am just in the midst of writing a rather long post on the difficulties of the education systems in France, UK and USA... and it seems that no one system feels right (in absolute). However, in relative terms, I tend to look for a well-rounded academics + extra curricular approach and hence privilege the UK [private] system. For this reason, we are sending our son to England for school (he is 11).


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