Monday, May 18, 2009

Fac off!

There is a widely-held belief in France that teachers ill educate other peoples' children so as to reduce the competition with their own.

You might guffaw at such a notion, but I've heard it said on more than one occasion by more than one person, and also read it in Le Figaro in the remarks to various articles on education. Who believes this? The professional classes, to start with.

This weekend I've been hearing some of the horrors of the education system both private and public. One parent was telling me how her 13yr old daughter's private school science teacher doesn't teach, he assigns a subject to a small group of students who then have to present to the class. It sounds very modern and with it, does it not? The only problem is, the kids understand nothing. You need a minimum of teaching before you can grasp the essentials enough to widen your knowledge of a subject. Let alone be responsible for teaching your peers.

The English teacher's lessons are so full of complicated grammatical content with arrows and lines and colours everywhere, that at the end of three years the kids are all terrified of the subject and have yet to open their mouths to say anything.

Certain teachers tell their pupils not to ask their parents to help them with maths homework because they won't understand the latest methods and will just end up confusing them. That gem came from a public school.

So parents are shunted aside in the education of their children, and teachers make such a bad job of it themselves that it's not surprising Michel Godet, in his Figaro article, declares that there are "no more good students at university". University is chosen by students as a last resort if they cannot get into a preparatory class for the grandes écoles, or selective higher education such as schools of engineering or commerce, or the IUT (technology institutes).

If you're at the fac, unless it's for a professional qualification such as law or medicine, you're a loser. Naturally, it's the students from the lower social strata that suffer the most. The proportion of richer students is half that of poor students yet there are ten times more of them in selective higher education.

Teachers know what's needed to access the best in education; other parents have to network to find out because there's no guarantee that your child's teacher has his best interests at heart.

There's no concept of the 'rounded child' in French education even though they might give lip service to the idea. According to the kids themselves, teachers come in, do their classes and go home. They don't care about the kids, are not interested in kids with problems, and just want a room of silent robots who, whether they work or not makes no difference.

For a child to get anywhere in France, he either has to have pushy parents, or an incredibly strong idea of what he wants to do and the motivation to do it. Otherwise he'll end up at any one of the losers' facs studying for a useless diploma that is of no interest to employers.

Or become a teacher...

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