Skip to main content

So what's afoot in the French education system?

I enjoy keeping up to date to some extent with the education world in France thanks to Philippe Watrelot's informative blog in which he summarises recent events as reported by the French press (see the blog roll to the right).

It looks like France will be abandoning Saturday morning school (it's already gone in many regions anyway). The new minister Vincent Peillon looks happy to go along with the results of a previous consultation which favoured the week of "neuf demi-journées". Why not ten, you ask? Fair question. It seems that because the school day is so long, it is still felt that a half day on Wednesday is desirable. The obvious question is: why not shorten the day and have five full days as we do in the UK?

Monsieur Peillon is doing some rapid recruiting of new primary school teachers and assistants in order to cope with rising cohorts and to stick to an election promise. Primary education is the priority and this is surely right. Reminds me of Blair's policy from 1997.

A curious idea which has been put forward by the ministry is that retired teachers should be made available to advise new recruits to the profession. Philippe Watrelot's analysis is apt:

Pour ma part, je voudrais poser ici cinq points qui, selon moi, limitent la portée de ce dispositif proposé par Peillon :
- tout comme “enseigner”, "former" est un métier qui s'apprend (et qui ne s'improvise pas dans l'urgence). L’expérience ne suffit pas à faire une expertise.
- ce qui est important pour éviter les routines, c'est d'offrir la possibilité d'avoir plusieurs référents et pas un seul qui, aussi bon soit-il, conduira à une imitation ou à une opposition.
- pour pouvoir se former, il faut surtout du temps ! Du temps pour ne pas être dans l'urgence, avoir du recul...
- tout autant que des enseignants expérimentés, ce dont ont besoin les stagiaires c'est d'échanger avec leurs pairs, leurs semblables qui vivent les mêmes difficultés qu'eux et qui leur permettent de relativiser.
- enfin, pas sûr que des retraités aient envie de “remettre ça” et de retourner dans leurs établissements !

I've never heard that idea put forward in the UK and it should be given short shrift in France.

Interesting to note that the allocation de rentrée scolaire is to rise by 25%. I've often thought this benefit (given to all parents at the start of the new academic year) is a good idea, although it is true that expenses on books and materials are a bit higher in France than in Britain. On the other hand, our parents have to shell out for uniforms of dubious worth. It has sometimes struck me that more fuss is made about the rentrée in France than "back to school" in British stores.

And to finish.... a survey has been carried out about the happiness of French schoolchildren. Here is Philippe's résumé: (my emphasis)

Dans ce sondage, la grande majorité des parents d’élèves (85 %), du public comme du privé, affirment que leurs enfants sont plutôt heureux d’aller à l’école. Mais il faut nuancer : seuls 21 % des parents estiment que leurs enfants sont « tout à fait heureux », et 64 % « plutôt heureux » . Et ce sentiment décroît aussi avec l’âge : un collégien sur cinq et un lycéen sur quatre ne sont pas heureux en classe. On note aussi que le "plaisir d'apprendre" s'érode avec l'âge.Ce qui démotive, c'est aussi la peur de l'échec. 79 % des parents sont d’accord pour dire que beaucoup de compétences des élèves ne sont pas suffisamment évaluées et valorisées. 60 % d’entre eux pensent aussi que l’enseignement décourage les élèves en soulignant leurs faiblesses au lieu de valoriser leurs points forts, et 67 % estiment que la peur de l’échec les paralyse. Une refonte générale du système s’avère nécessaire pour la majorité d’entre eux : 57 % estiment également que les méthodes pédagogiques sont dépassées et les journées scolaires trop chargées.

I wonder what the results would be of a similar poll in Britain? There have been surveys suggesting British are generally among the least happy in Europe, but I have seen nothing specific on happiness in school. Best guess: we try harder to focus on happiness in UK schools and more children would say they like school.

Qu'en pensez-vous?


Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.


An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

Learning strategies (3)

This is the third in the mini-series of blogs about learning strategies. So far, we have looked at some (rather scant) research evidence for the effectiveness of strategies. Bear in mind that a lack of research evidence does not mean strategies do not work; if there is any consensus, it is that they are probably useful and probably best used when integrated into a normal teaching sequence. We then looked at a classification of different types of strategies.

In this blog Gianfanco and I look at how you might integrate strategies into your teaching. There is nothing revolutionary about this stuff! You may do a good deal of this type of thing already, but you may also be new to the concepts and applications of learning strategies.

Let's look at how you might use strategies, particularly with regard to the teaching of listening and reading. Remember: this is just about how you help students to use strategies to become better listeners and readers.

How to teach strategies 

The research …