Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bad news for French schools

This month, the English language newspapers here in France have revealed some unpleasant aspects of the French education system. One paper reports on the findings of a far reaching study which found that school children were racist, homophobic, sexist and held negative views about disabled classmates. What was more, these views were often coming from and being reinforced by the teachers.

Meanwhile in The French Paper, my news story on smacking in French schools made the front page. It was a story I'd wanted to get out there for some time but it took an intelligent editor and a brave parent's testimonial to make it happen.

Smacking has been banned in French schools for over 100 years but it still goes on. Staggeringly, one teaching union says it is becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence - particularly in nursery and primary schools. Whilst researching the article, I talked to a number of parents whose children had been smacked. I  also lost count of the number of forum postings I encountered discussing the mistreatment of pupils in schools - teachers, dinner ladies and school bus drivers were all implicated.

To me, smacking children just isn't on. Especially not in a school situation. But I can see how it happens. When I was a newly qualified teacher, I started out with high ideals based on things I'd been taught in college. However, I was quickly told that a lot of what I'd been taught (such as the value of learning through play) wasn't practical in a classroom situation. I didn't let go of my ideals but until I ran my own nursery, I had to toe the line. I had no choice. Luckily for me, the philosophical differences were to do with how to educate rather than discipline children.

Now imagine you are a new teacher in France. You've been taught in college that smacking is unacceptable then you start teaching. One day, you are faced with a difficult child and you turn to your fellow and more experienced teachers for advice. If they tell you the solution is to smack, what do you do? Some, most perhaps, will simply do so. It isn't right, but I can see how this culture of violence in some French schools is perpetuated.

A lot of British expatriates describe France as being 'like England forty years ago'. When it comes to the education system, I think, sadly, they may just have a point......


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Tiffany Turner said...

I cannot even fathum this happening. I am a teacher in the United States, and parents would sue teachers for touching a child this way here. There was a teacher that was reported to be upset with a student for not dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s. She had the student stand and used a ballpoint pen to dot his eyelid with a dot. The teacher was put on reprimand after the parents complained.

There is no reason to slap a child to discipline them. There are so many programs and systems to use. I'm guessing it won't change until people start to complain. You sound like you might be on the road towards changing the way people might feel about this. Change will happen once people start to say this is wrong and shouldn't be the norm.