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French vs English education system

(16 Posts)
jasperc163 Tue 01-Mar-11 12:33:02

I would be interested to know if anyone has a good comparative view of the 2?

DH is french and of course educated in the state system (but he is of the bright, applied, would do well anywhere variety and both parents were teachers). I went to private school from about 9 and am inclined towards sending DDs private as well in the long term. At the moment DD1 is in reception at a village primary . We have ongoing debates about state vs private (which has of course been done to death on here) and also about whether we would be better considering a move to france at secondary/univ level if required.

I have the feeling that there is an element of rose tinted spectacles about DH's perception of french state schools but I would be interested to hear if people think they really are that much better?


GrendelsMum Tue 01-Mar-11 12:40:17

I don't have comparative experience myself, but a French friend has taught in both French and English schools, and at both French and English Universities.

I think I'm right in saying that she feels that the teaching is much better in English schools. She felt that the French teachers in the schools she worked in were very old-fashioned in their teaching style, not because they had made a positive decision to go for 'chalk and talk', but because they weren't aware of the alternatives. She felt that the English teachers had a far greater range of teaching strategies available to them. When she returned to teach in France, and brought back new ideas on teaching, she found they went down extremely well with the pupils, and she felt they improved the weaker pupils' learning substantially. I think she felt that the quality of teacher training really let down the French teachers.

On the other hand, she nuch preferred the curriculum of the French schools.

candleshoe Tue 01-Mar-11 12:42:35

I taught in both - and here's the shortened version:

Kids in French schools are better educated but generally don't enjoy school very much. Schools are old fashioned and strict and dull.

Kids in Uk schools get a worse education but generally enjoy the whole process more! Schools are less well disciplined and education lacks academic rigour but kids are treated as individuals.


P.S. I have also taught in 2 English prep schools - they are the best without a doubt if you can afford it!

BikeRunSki Tue 01-Mar-11 12:44:01

I went to the French Lycee in London from 4-13. I consider my education there to be excellent - equivalent to to a private education if my knowledge and qualifications are taken into account compared to privately educated friends - but very academic. I certainly would not dismiss the possibility of a French education if it is practical for you.

I did go to a our local comp for the last few years of school, and really actually don't think that the education was to the same standard. However, DH went to a small comp in the Cotswolds which has given him a very good education too.
(I have seen it cited as an example of best practice in a number of cases).

For both my schools I had a very wide "social" education, both with the cosmopolitan nature of the Lycee, and the wide social intake of the comp. For this I am very grateful, both certain exposed me to a far wider range of people than I suspect a private education might have done.

What neither the Lycee, my inner city comp or DH's rural comp gave us was the contacts with "movers and shakers" that a private education may have done, or I may just be assuming this.

BikeRunSki Tue 01-Mar-11 12:45:14

Lycee was very much "Teacher Dominated Learning".

candleshoe Tue 01-Mar-11 12:47:38

A lot of chalk and talk - I was really unusual in the school in Montpellier, France because I allowed the kids to interact with me and each other! The other staff thought I was a lunatic!

Jux Tue 01-Mar-11 12:54:56

We were in France for about 6m looking around to see if we wanted to live there - about 5 years ago. I know that one English couple who had settled there said that the teachers there would smack children if they were naughty and the discipline was much more like it was here in the 50s.

That is all I know, as dd was being, er, not schooled at all really homeschooled at the time.

SnapFrakkleAndPop Tue 01-Mar-11 12:57:40

Personally I would go from French to English but not the reverse. There is a lot of conditioning (possibly the most accurate, if a little extreme way to describe it) which goes on in the early years which teaches the 'right' way of doing things such as writing and formating and the whole system penalises rather than encourages, which can be very demoralising for a child used to the more nurturing environment typically found in English schools. There is also quite a lot of learning by rote which, if you haven't done, causes issues at higher levels when you're supposed to have things at your fingertips. HOWEVER I don't find that it produces brilliant thinkers or very original students. Getting my classes to express their opinion is a nightmare but they will happily quote other people's. Asking them to reason something from cause to effect, and vice versa, results in blank faces but if I tell them they'll be able to parrot my reasoning back to me. I guess what it lacks most of all is cross-application of skills.

The English system values individuality and creativity much more than the French, which achieves generally excellent results by enforcing a good work ethic and a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy. You are expected to work and work HARD but that focus on application also provides a rounded education of good standard up to the age of 18 - even if you doing a bac S (sciences) you have to continue with a foreign language etc. I think the English system specialises too early.

I would rate English universities, in general, above French ones - French universities (with the exception of the grandes écoles which are a totally different ball game) are non-selective. If you pass your bac then you can go. This leads to a very wide range of abilities and makes teaching quite difficult. It's also not anywhere near as enquiry focused.

If you are considering the move I would sign up to the CNED and get the homeschooling materials so your DC are up to speed with what the French expect.

FWIW my plan, as someone currently working in the education nationale, is French system to age 11 and a more English approach at secondary level, ideally at a bilingual school sous contrat with a strong track record for the IB, failing that a British secondary with an IB option or an international school.

Overall it depends on your definition of better really...

jasperc163 Tue 01-Mar-11 13:09:04

Thanks so much everyone - some really interesting perspectives. Clearly French education isn't necessarily the obvious solution to the private vs state dilemma here in the UK (and of course there would be the small issue of having to move!).

I am sure the Lycee in London would be a consideration longer term if we lived there but we are too far away.

GrendelsMum Tue 01-Mar-11 13:28:59

I think that candleshoe has said straight out exactly what I was trying to say tactfully - my friend said something very similar about how all the other teachers thought she was mad to allow the children to take part in the lesson.

SnapFrakkleAndPop Tue 01-Mar-11 13:53:35

If you get materials from the CNED you will get many of the benefits of a French education (basic skill reinforcement and a wide curriculum to a high level) without the disadvantages which come from the methods employed in the schools.

alice15 Tue 01-Mar-11 14:21:00

my DD 16 has a very good relationship with her French exchange partner and has had numerous conversations with her family comparing the two systems. At the older end of secondary, as Snapetc said, the big difference is that in England you can specialise in a relatively small number of subjects at A level, whereas in France you have to continue with Maths and French as well as other subjects to get one of the types of Bac - more like the IB. So for my DD, who is counting the minutes until she can drop maths and science, the English system certainly suits her better, but for an all-rounder who wants to keep going with everything, the French system gives more chance for that. But of course you will have no idea whether a reception aged DD will want to specialise at 16 or not, so that's probably not much help ;)

builder Tue 01-Mar-11 17:30:50

My perception of working with english educated collegues and overseas educated colleagues is that english education produces 'thinkers' who are happy to debate/argue/discuss with older colleagues. Which - as an older colleague I want - I want to be challenged.

I don't know about french educated people but those educated in very formal, hardworking asian cultures will have done tons more work than their British counterparts but aren't such thinkers. Or rather - since all humanity have the same brains - haven't been taught that to think and debate is good.

gallicgirl Tue 01-Mar-11 17:42:03

I had to spend a year in a French uni as part of my degree course at an English uni and I found it very difficult.

I was used to debating, arguing, reasoning, explaining my point of view but in France, thinking was discouraged and regurgitation of facts, literature or other people's opinions was the norm. We were criticised for opposing the professor's opinion and made to feel worthless.
I saw one English student give a fantastic presentation (in French) with excellent content and I'm sure she would have achieved an A grade in the UK. However the French professor marked her down because the middle section of her presentation wasn't of equal length to the introduction and conclusion shock. It was as if he wasn't interested in the content and form was all important.

Maybe it's worth investigating if the weaknesses in each education system can be compensated for outside of school.

SofaQueen Tue 01-Mar-11 19:36:36

In London, there are also several Ecoles Homologue which are bilingual and teach both the National Curriculum and the Education National. Really inspiring schools which seem to want to take the best of both systems.

After 11, the children move on the either the English system or take up their spots at the Lycee.

DoMyBest Sun 09-Feb-14 08:52:31

Bit late with this thread: I did the french lycee until I was 12, then boarded in an English school (I also then went on to Universities in both france and England). I found the main differences to be (1) french system you learn by heart, English system you learn to find solutions/develop new ideas (2) french system values form (eg reciting Flaubert off by heart) over substance (actually understanding what Flaubert's saying (3) English system more all -rounded (french lycee primary school our only sport was a jog around hyde park once a week; English school I was thrown straight into tennis, rounders, hockey, swimming etc).

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