Friday, December 19, 2008

Educating Ritalin

Last night I attended the parent's evening at my eldest's private school. I clutched my list of rendez-vous - 2 out of 9 - yes, my eldest had been a bit slow off the mark sorting that out (no surprise there), and went to hear the worst. (NB the title is a just a pun. No child I know is on Ritalin!)

In fact, I managed to see six teachers who all told me the same thing: intelligent boy but too chatty, lacks concentration, and could do better. When I relayed this to my mother later, as a former secondary school teacher she said, "well that's typical of many boys of 12". My eldest has now been instructed to shut the f**k up, ignore anyone who talks to him and not to give a toss if they sulk about it, and to give warning to one particular girl that this is the new regime, as instructed from his mother, or else.

One good thing about the meeting was that I wasn't immediately asked whether I wanted to know which subjects my son needed tutoring in, which was the case at his previous state school. Obviously the teachers here feel that they are the ones doing the teaching, not leaving it to others to do their job for them. Which is how it should be, in my opinion.

Tutoring is very common, as it is in the UK. The Times had an article about it today citing a report saying it isn't fair that some kids succeed better because their parents pay for extra tuition.

Was life ever fair? Ask a woman sitting in a Congan refugee camp having been raped and lost her husband in a brutal killing if life is fair.

Some children are born into families where the parents are motivated for them to succeed, others are not. The amount of money you have doesn't really matter. There are poor parents who push their children to do well as there are rich parents who don't give a toss about their kids. Some children just get on with it themselves even if their parents are not pushy. A lot depends on character, and whether you have a character determined to succeed has nothing to do with fairness.

Schools are the opportunity for children to learn and develop skills to help them through life. Many parents feel that the level of teaching in some schools though is so bad that they are obliged to make up for the gaps in their children's education by private tuition. Other parents cannot afford to do this, and this is where the fairness thing comes in.

Essentially though, it's up to parents to do their best for their kids. Mine are my responsibility, and what other parents do or don't do is not my problem. If mine need tuition, they'll get it by whatever means I can afford. If the government wants to do something useful, instead of moaning about pushy middle class parents hogging the best schools because their children are tutored, they should make sure that every state school child receives the best education possible.

That goes for France and the UK. Interestingly, in France, state school teachers have their children privately educated. Nuff said...


  1. Mostly the same reasons inspite of it being a very long time ago that my children went to private schools - I felt that they really talked to me and listened to my opinion, and did not expect me to do THIER work.....or did I expect them to do mine.........

    But also there is a part of traditio - we all went to private schools...automatically

  2. I nearly wrote a post about the parent-teacher meetings...but I was far too depressed after mine, I had a couple of glasses of wine instead...

    I'm really miffed about having to pay for extra tuition. I have to do it though because all my children are rubbish at maths - and I can't help at all cos they're still better than I am at it.

    And as I'm so poor to start with, the fact that I can get the cost of private tutoring deducted from my impôts doesn't help one little bit because I don't pay tax! So I end up paying MORE per hour than richer people...

    As you said - life isn't fair :-)

  3. Now this is a post I know a lot about. And you've talked a lot of sense there. Yes, the teachers should be doing the teaching, not tutors, yes, life is not fair and some children do get the luxury of some private tution to supplement their schooling, and yes, children are born into families with different attitudes to learning which has nothing to do with money.

    My paternal grandfather was a rather poor miner who lived through the depression in the 30s but pushed his children and grandchildren to better themselves through education. If only he could have lived to see us now: all eight grandchildren in graduate professions.

    btw Your son does sound like a normal 12 year old boy, but on-the-ball teachers should be able to keep him on task and let you know if he wavers!!! I only have to pick up a boy's homework planner for them to behave! (They know I would let their parents know their silly antics through it)

  4. Gigi, does your local Mairie offer classes de rattrapage? I think that mine even has an after school association to help children with difficulties in certain subjects. As it's a class, it's not as pricey as individual tuition.

    Working Mum - thanks for the confirmation re my son. Parents have been given access to all marks now via the internet. No more hiding bad results at the bottom of the bag!!


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