Friday, March 18, 2011

School Days

In France, children begin school at age 3 and continue until they’re 18.  We might get lots of vacation time, holidays, Wednesdays off and strikes that interfere with the normal school year schedule-  But in the time the children are actually in school, they’re expected to learn ALOT.

French being one of the most complicated languages doesn’t really help matters.  Between the major curriculum subjects, a school day that ends at 4 :30 pm, after-hours tutoring for kids in difficulty, and an hour of homework a night--  there’s really no time for anything else after school.

There are no school affiliated sports teams.

No band, pep club, or cheerleaders. 

No theater, chorus or art besides what a teacher might feel like doing with their own class. 

But that doesn’t stop the French from holding extracurricular activities in high esteem.  In fact you need them in order to be a well rounded individual in these parts.  Therefore Wednesday’s are devoted to whatever sport or leisure you can find and/or afford.  Judo is big here, as is classical dance, and gymnastics.  There’s also piano lessons or fencing. 

The education system is tough.  Wheras Americans are preoccupied with every child feeling special and significant, and are starting to teach according to how every individual child learns--in France you are expected to conform to the way things are done, will be done, have been done for the last five generations.   (I do have to say there has been a general shift in the last couple of years, however- teachers beginning to grade differently and trying to motivate their students by pointing out how much they’re capable of instead of focusing on their failures.) 

My daughter is in the first grade.  She has homework every night.  Not anything big- usually just reviewing what they worked on that day or drawing a picture of a sound.  I don’t think I ever had homework in first grade in the states.  But here, by the time you’re in high school,  you have a good two hours of homework a night.  There just isn’t enough time in the school day/week/year to get the students where they’re supposed to be.

University is basically free here.  But in order to get in, you have to have the highest grade average and test scores.  If you fail your SAT type exams-what is referred to as your baccalaureate- you don’t graduate from highschool and can not go on to college  so basically the last 12 years of education goes down the drain.  Talk about pressure.  

I can’t help feeling like we have it pretty good in the U.S.  We nurture creativity and use a little of both textbook learning and hands-on.   Our colleges train you how to do a certain job in real life instead of how to memorize the text book on how to do said job. 

And while the American education system might be under scrutiny lately and with all its faults- I’d totally take it over the French system and most other European systems any day! Sometimes you don't realise how good you have it 'till it's gone.

Have a great weekend everyone!

*CQG*

31 comments:

Joy Tamsin David said...

We've started homework in first grade over here too. Usually just 20 minutes or so.

What do you mean strikes? Are they common in France?

Laura Pauling said...

What a wonderful perspective! I love these posts. I have an award for you at my blog!

Kate said...

This surprises me because the baccalaureate is held in high estime over here.

I didn't know that French kids started main school at three though - In most European countries they go to some form of preschool from three and start main school later - six or even seven. The UK has one of the youngest start ages. Pre-school at 3, Reception class (Infant school) at 4.

Sarah said...

There are benefits and drawbacks to every system. I'm sure the European system works for some more than others, just like the US system. What I do like about the system you describe--free education for young children. I work with economically disadvantaged parents who are so frustrated because they can't always get their kids into Headstart.

Cynthia Lee said...

My high school years were an absolute breeze.

I hardly had to study at all and, as a result, I developed terrible habits that made college difficult for me.

So while I'm sure there are drawbacks to French schools, I would have liked my youthful learning years to have been more challenging.

Tom M Franklin said...

*ahem*

If 'tis true "they’re expected to learn ALOT" they should start HERE:

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html


if you're not writing a witty, slightly snarky book about an american woman living in france, by God, you should be!

(seriously!)


-- Tom

Nicole Zoltack said...

I always wanted to learn how to fence.q

Solvang Sherrie said...

My kids had homework in kindergarten. Very simple stuff that took about ten minutes, but yeah they start early here too. My sixth grader has at least thirty minutes every night. Most kids have more (he often starts it at school when he finishes classwork). But interesting contrast with how things are done there. I love hearing about France :)

Angelina Rain said...

European school systems are a lot tougher. When my family came to the US, I was in the third grade. My American school was starting to teach us how to multiply and divide but I always knew all that. I was starting Pre-Algebra in the third grade in Lithuania. Besides that, they have kids start leaning other languages, calculus, chemistry, ect, in the third grade. Here in the US, I didn’t have to learn that until high school.

My cousin in Lithuania, when in school, had so much homework that she would start on it the instant she came home and wouldn’t finish it until well after midnight. When I was in high school, I usually did all my homework in between classes and during lunch. I wouldn’t even need to bring my books home.

Sean said...

I'm with Cynthia - my high school years were a breeze as well, but not because I was smart. Most teachers passed everyone to make their classes look better, justifying a continued paycheck. I was never pushed and college was a real eye opener. Those profs didn't care that I hadn't done my reading because my neighbor's rabid St Bernard trapped had me inside my car all night long until the sheriff finally came the next morning. It was rough.

Anne N Kenny said...

In 4k my daughter had to read 15 minutes every night. That has continued through the years and now in 1st grade she has giant homework packets every week.

It's a lot of work but it doesn't seem anywhere near as bad as the French way. yikes!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My first grader has more homework than my fifth grader. Not sure how that works.

Preschool starts at 4 here, but I'm guessing it's not the same thing as in France. It's mostly about playing and learning.

Old Kitty said...

I like the UK system!

Good luck to your little ones as they embark on their long educational lives!!!! Take care
x

Stephanie said...

My oldest went to French immersion school here in the U.S. and I was surprised at the leave-em-at-the-door-we'll-take-it-from-here attitude. My MIL, who's French says that is the attitude in France - the parents aren't encouraged to participate in their child's education. It was a little shocking. My favorite thing to hear in the background was "un, deux, trois . . . see-lance!" We still say it fifteen years later.

LTM said...

don't know why, but this is super-interesting to me... :D Here, my daughters start having homework in 3rd grade, but my 2nd grader brings home tons of graded activities from school...

when I was in HS, I went to a magnet school that didn't have sports teams. We had "lifetime sports." Mmm-hm. NERDS!!! :D

Anyway, cool beans. Thanks for the info! The Sorbonne... ooo la la~ ;p

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm sure there are advantages to both systems, but there is no question that America is falling behind the rest of the world in things like graduation rate and so forth. Still, I think that has more to do with the fast food, instant gratification style of our society than the actual education system.

Anyway, it's interesting to hear about the difference, thanks Katie!

randine said...

My daughter's in grade one and she's never had homework. Except for the books we have to read every night. Even my son in grade seven never has homework. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. It's good for them right now, I guess, but I'm not sure it's preparing them for the future if they plan on going to post secondary.

Stephanie said...

My daughter is in 2nd grade now, and only has homework maybe 3 nights a week, but she also has spelling words to study, and usually has to do math facts. But last year, in first grade, I think she had a homework sheet almost every night.

Glad we have the type of education system we have....the school does so much with the kids and parents together...it's a great learning environment!

Nahno McLein said...

Mh, coming from Berlin and studying in England right now, I can't say that I agree. (I went to high school in Florida for a year as well). I'd say I have a good overview on the topic and when you say it's free in America, then I only see the $40.000 depth students take on per year like some of my friends in the US.

In Germany it's completely free to study and everyone that has a high school diploma is even allowed to go. We still have issues with the system, though.

In England, you pay 3000 pounds, (9000 starting a year from now), that is still cheaper than America, but the schools are quite good. I'd say some American Unis are better than here, though.

So I guess you can be lucky, but I was disappointed in high school as well as surprised. I think you can learn a lot if you want to, but I quite liked the high school in Germany, too. Not so fond of British high school, though.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wonderful post, Katie!
Some days, when I'm wearing my "conspiracy theory hat," I suspect that a certain segment of the American population is rooting for the downfall of public education, because they just don't like paying for other people's children's education.

I think we do a good job with what we have to work with in terms of time, material, and money. I wish we had more support from the government -- the kind of support that builds up instead of tears down.

Carolyn Abiad said...

My husband is a product of the French system. He gripes about the pop quizes (take out a blank sheet...) and he's tough on the kids as a result. Penmanship is a huge thing for him too, and then barely teach it here! (LOTS of tears when he erases illegible homework. Sigh. They'll be stronger for it, I guess.:/)

Anne Gallagher said...

Monster Child has homework in Kindergarten. AND division. I don't remember division until 3rd grade.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Education everywhere is a mess, but how could it not be? People are so individualized, mass education probably will never be perfect. Still... a system (like France) that only corrects and never encourages will have to break at some time.
It also helps to think that massive public education like we have in North America and Europe now isn't an ancient thing, revised over centuries. It's fairly new. Think of the difference between Anne of Green Gable's school and the high school in any modern tv show. Totally different. I think we'll figure it out someday. Till then, if I have a kid, I very well might homeschool. :) Or get super involved in education. Who knows?

nick said...

Very interesting. I don't think they have the Liberal Arts college philosophy in Europe, do they? Don't think it has been a great success in the US.

nick said...

Very interesting. I don't think they have the Liberal Arts college philosophy in Europe, do they? Don't think it has been a great success in the US.

nick said...

Very interesting. I don't think they have the Liberal Arts college philosophy in Europe, do they? Don't think it has been a great success in the US.

nick said...

Sorry for the repeated posts, computer went weird there for a moment

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Interesting post, Katie. My daughter is 15 here in the States and has lots of homework. I know a lot of the pressure is put on her by herself to achieve. My husband was valedictorian (excuse my spelling) and I skipped a year of school and started college early. We know she is bright and we'd like her to focus on enjoying school and the social apsects of it.

Tamara Narayan said...

My daughters in first grade here in Rochester, NY and she has math homework almost every day (5 to 10 minutes) plus she's expected to read for 15 minutes a day.

I found your comment on high school students having 2 whole hours of homework funny. When I was a junior in high school taking AP History, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, Trigonometry, German 2, and English, I studied 6 hours a day except Fridays. It was miserable, but I got straight A's and into the college of my choice. Yes, I was insane. (Still am.)

Nicole Mc said...

This is very interesting! I am always fascinated about the way other countries do things.

Suzanne said...

I'm a new reader to your blog (found you from the A-Z list), so I'm not sure how long you've been in France. But here in the States, the kids get homework starting in Kindergarten, with a couple hours a night in middle and high schools. Creativity by the teachers is being chiseled away, as they have to "teach to the test." Most states now have standardized tests the students need to pass, and only what's on the test is studied. For example, a creative teacher might want to do a section on Japan or tsunamis, based on what happened in the news. They don't have time for that, and it's not on the test anyway, so they can't teach it. I could go on and on, but I try to ignore most of it because I can't do anything about it.

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