French Education

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Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

Hello,

This is my first time posting on this forum but am happy I've found it as it is so useful.

My family and I are planning to move to France next year to the Charente area. Most likely somewhere in the Jonzac-Poitiers-Angouleme area (large I know).

We have two children, boy and girl, and they will be 3 and 6 next year. So one will start Maternelle and the other Primaire.

Having read a number of posts regarding the French School system (on this and other forums) I get the feeling that the majority of them are negative and regularly feature bad experiences of bullying, the teachers, the educational ethos and the College system.

I realise that not all school systems are perfect, that one's experiences can depend upon the individual school and that it's important to know about downsides.

We also realise that as parents we will need to put a lot of effort into integrating into the local community and also helping our kids develop friendships with local children. And we are lucky that my wife's French level is almost fluent.

But we'd really like to try and get a balanced view, and wondered if anyone had any positive experiences from putting their children through the French education system? Especially if you may live somewhere in the area we are considering moving to.

Thank you in advance for any comments.

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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

It does work for some, some children do very well in the system, but I often wonder if they wouldn't do well anywhere.

 If the child fits perfectly and conforms, then it'll work. If they don't conform then in my experience, it does not work. Deviate from the path and the system has no intention of coping with deviants. Both my children were born in France and went right through the system. For the second, it was a nightmare as soon as college started not that primaire had been 'good'. It was also problematic for the eldest, but not as bad.

For me it'll be the biggest regret I have and that will last until the end of my days...... staying in France from college onwards. This feeling never changes even with the passing of time.........

 


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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

We moved to Spain in the late 70's. It didn't even occur to us to send our kids to a spanish school.

It would have been just the same if we'd moved to France. I've worked, and we've lived in France, and its (ex) colonies, on and off, since the 60's.

So we put them in a very reputable international school in Spain, and have never regretted the decision, even though it cost quite a bit. Unfortunately the school couldn't provide education beyond age 16 for sciences, so they had to go back to UK after that.

Before leaving UK, we were told that our daughter would possibly get 2 GCSEs - she managed 9 "O" level GCEs at the international school, then went on to college in UK and an honours degree in Australia.

Our son also managed 8 "O" levels in Spain, 3 "A" levels in UK, and gained an honours degree in Engineering from UK, and a Masters in Wind Energy from Copenhagen.

If they had stayed in school in UK or had gone to a local school in Spain (or France) they would both probably be hanging around the street corners like so many of the youngsters these days.

OK, so are we rich b***ers who could afford to put our kids in a private school? No, not really, we just couldn't see a proper alternative.


On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H. L. Mencken 1880 - 1956

Some may not like his views, but what a prediction!
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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

Sorry, Craftman, my last post was probably off topic.

I think the answer to your question is that if you want your kids to grow up to be like french kids, then put them into the french system.

I don't really think it's much better or worse than the UK system.

If you want to be sure they have the best chance of success then you'll have to pay for a better school. That's just the way it is. Otherwise it's pot luck, whatever the conditioned minds of others may lead them to tell you.

Like the man said, you get what you pay for; it's always better to go first class.


On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H. L. Mencken 1880 - 1956

Some may not like his views, but what a prediction!
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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

Well obviously you were/are far richer than we are, as private international schools were not an option for us in France, not at all. And I never thought that my kids would grow up as 'french kids', just kids who could speak french.

Why would I have thought or imagined anything other than that?

We moved to France and thought that school was school and never imagined the differences between what we had known and what our children would get. Well, I knew that it was a little old fashioned in France, but that notion obviously covered a mulitude of unimagineable differences. Would I have realised if we had had the internet, probably, but we didn't.

And first class, twice in the last few years, have I used it when I got cheap rail fares. That's it, also never really an option.


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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

I don't believe we were much richer than the average foreigners in our part of Spain. We chose an area to live which had good english speaking schools, which also happened to be a good place for the business we set up.

We did own our house, which cost rather less than an equivalent house in UK, but apart from that, all we had was the income from our business. It was a bit of a struggle at times but we had our priorities, and if it got hard we worked harder.

Maybe that produces better results in Spain than in France. Spanish bureaucracy is a pain but not totally unjust.

When we moved to Spain we already knew that school was not just school; it's the foundation of your kids' future, but then again we went to good schools ourselves, and had some experience of educational systems in other countries.

We had already decided, in 1980, that the british system had been pretty well destroyed.

Quite apart from that, one only has to observe the people of any country to get an idea of their culture and education and make the appropriate decisions.

The "first class" comment was simply a bit of hyperbole.


On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H. L. Mencken 1880 - 1956

Some may not like his views, but what a prediction!
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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

We moved with an 8 year old and we're happy with the French school system.  Of all the parent's we've met in the last six years only one had a problem with their local school.  I reckon it's horses for courses... when we lived in the UK we had an OFSTED rated  'outstanding' school in our village but we were so unhappy with the level of education that we ended up paying for private school.

I, like you, read forums before we moved and was also worried like you… but I've learned that that the majority of people don't post on forums and maybe the majority of 'happy' customers don’t tend to write about their experiences... so the forums can give a slightly inaccurate overview of the French education system.

The French system isn't perfect but neither is the UK system.  Our son is growing into a wonderful young man and he seems to be getting a well-rounded education... And he’s bilingual and pretty good at Spanish too… by the way it is another myth that there is no art or music or drama in French schools... I was talking to a retired UK teacher a few weeks ago who was staggered to learn that my son has Art and Music lessons in his 3rd year of secondary school... she had read it didn't exist in the French curriculum.  (he's also had visiting artists, trips to ballet and galleries and orchestras and theatres). 

I have friends whose children have happily gone through the system through to degree level and others where the kids decided to study their degree in the UK… all have been very successful.  I guess a lot of this does of course depend on the child and perhaps your aspirations for them too… but I don’t think the French system will handicap them.

Your children are young enough to happily adapt.  If they are into sport ,dance or gymnastics (Rugby, football, handball, basketball, canoeing, tennis or cycling and so on) there are loads of youth clubs they can join and this will help forge friendships... the clubs are very well organised too… and pretty cheap…  And a great way for you to meet people... I’ve spent many a Saturday afternoon on the edge of a rugby pitch chatting with the other parents.

If you start introducing some basic French into their language now it will help them in the early days.

Life in France is a challenge but it’s not all gloom and doom - Good luck with your move.

 


p.s. whilst we live in the Dordogne my son was the first non-french child to go to the local primary and he is still the only English boy in his secondary school




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Re: Does anyone have any positive experiences of the French school system?

To answer the specific question, yes very much so. We started our children in the local village school at ages 2 1/2 and 3. The eldest in now in Prepa at Nantes, the youngest in his second year at Lycee. As parents we tried to be as fully involved in their education as possible, we went to all the parent teachers meetings and were both involved in the PTAs wherever possible. You get out what you put in. The CPEs at Lycee tell me that there are some British parents who they have never seen throughout the 3 years their children have been there. If you are not prepared to support your children through their education system (I do not mean financially) then you are IMHO depriving them of half the benefit. Through the normal state system our children have learned to play instruments, played in orchestras 120 strong, done sport, art, theatre and been on foreign trips. The eldest took the American SATs for MIT and scored 85% for English and 75% for Maths, he was a year younger that the USA students. As parents we were brought up in the UK in the old O level system that is now back in favour. The French system is much more like this and seems to reward children and parents who are prepared to work hard to get good results. Not to say its the best system in the world, but we have been delighted with it. Our local college also had a SECPA system for those children who could not cope with main stream education. Rather than been shunted off out of sight, they were fully integrated with the rest of the school and their work valued too, as evidenced by the work they did for the theatre productions.

We once had a difficulty with bullying, but this was sorted out immediately. Some French teachers who teach English have difficulties with British children correcting them. Our youngest described one teacher at College as "evil" after just one lesson. (she was very strict) By the end of the first term, she was his favourite teacher. I have to admit that I was not fully comfortable speaking French with the college French teacher, he was very strict with the class, and sitting at a desk in front of him I felt every sympathy for them.

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