Pros and cons of a French education

Expat parents bringing up children in France are pretty united in what they like and dislike about the French education system. Discipline and cantine lunches rate high in our estimation but the rigidity of the curriculum, lack of parent-teacher communication, provision for special needs children and arts subjects are areas we would like to see improved, according to a survey by English tutorials provider Blackhen Education. 

'The intention of the survey was not to create a ‘them versus us’ situation but a channel through which parents could voice their opinions,  good or bad,' says Sue Aitken who runs Blackhen.
'The majority of parents who completed our questionnaire have children between the ages of 5-12yrs, but there were also replies from parents of children in collège & lycée.
'There were differences between families where the children had been born in France and those whose children had moved to France at a later date,' says Aitken. 'Those whose children were born in France tended to be happier although this could be because they do not have any experience of schools outside of France to judge against.'

So here's what you don't like about French schools:

The rigidity of the curriculum 
Nearly all parents found the curriculum to be too limiting, with a general lack of creative subjects, such as Art, Music or Drama.

The lack of provision for children with Special Educational Needs
This was a major concern of parents and covers a wide range of children, from the gifted to the children on the Autism spectrum. Nearly all of you find that there is a very real need for this area of education to be improved upon.

Lack of respect for pupils as individuals
This was an interesting area, some parents felt that there was respect for pupils but most felt that children were not treated as individuals. You also felt that not enough praise or encouragement was handed out in schools. 

Lack of parent-teacher involvement
Nearly all parents felt that there could be more parent-teacher involvement in their schools. Some parents felt isolated (especially if there were no other English-speaking parents at the school). Some parents felt that it was a case of ‘them versus us’ and that teachers were not always open to being approached.

The length of the school day
A lot of you feel the day is too long, especially for the younger children. However this was also the case for the older children, especially once they have started going to extra – curricular activities.

This was a major concern. Most of you agree that there should not be homework for the younger children of primary age. And nearly all of you were in agreement about the type of homework being set. You do not like the ‘learning by rote’ approach.

School holidays
Some of you felt that the summer holidays are too long and would welcome the dates being altered. However, some of you liked the longer holidays, because of visiting family members in other countries etc.

Entry to University
A few parents think it is too easy to get into a French university and that it does not hold the same importance as a UK counterpart.

The same parents shared concerns about the way students have to choose their subjects for lycée and the apparent lack of depth that they study them in.

and what you do like:

Canteen food
You were almost all in agreement about this. Most of you were very impressed with the food at lunchtimes.

Most of you were very happy with discipline in French schools. You were happy with the fact that children had respect for the teachers and other adults.

Size of school
Most of you liked the size of schools and felt that smaller schools offered a sense of community. However, with this often came the complaint of large classes, often two year groups being taught together at the same time.

Changes you would like to see:

More provision for children with Special Educational Needs & learning difficulties.

Teacher training to be brought up to date.

A reduction in the number of tests.

More programmes for gifted children.

Improvement in the teaching of foreign languages.

More communication between teachers and parents.

More creative arts subjects taught in schools.

Do you agree with the results of this survey? Leave your comments below.

Blackhen Education provides online English tutorials for children growing up in France. Read more here or visit the website here

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