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.