One of the really difficult aspects of assessing education is there is so much conflicting information. For instance in the UK, you’ll find league tables which rate each school but also several forms of these tables – some assessing overall performance, others based on value added and yet more trying to assess the improvement in schools and exams results. The result is that a school may look wonderful and high ranking on one table and a complete disaster in another. A high ranking school for example will struggle on the tables that rate year by year improvement simply because there isn’t as much room for improvement!
It is the same when you start to look at different countries and their education systems. One moment you’re reading a report on how wonderful and cost effective the French education system is and the next minute a scathing article in the Figaro proclaims that French schools are failing miserably. This latest attack on the much maligned but often praised French education system is by Natacha Polony a respected journalist.
She claims that French schools are not concentrating enough on teaching pupils the simple basics i.e. to read, write and count. She states that modern parents are partly to blame with a ‘consumerist vision of schools’. They are focussing too much on ‘skills’ teaching kids about stuff like hygiene, relationships and road safety instead of concentrating on simply knowledge and academic subjects.
Schools she suggests should be concentrating on teaching children to read and write and parents should not be expecting them to bring up their kids completely. Her views have found favour in the French press and media certainly – you can access their views from outside France by using the method in this video entitled France Proxy
There is genuine concern by many involved in the education fields in France that illiteracy is on the rise and the problem is in our schools. There is great criticism when children are introduced to such subjects as ‘gender theory’ in the curriculum before they’ve mastered the basic skills of reading and writing.
Mmme Polony has previously criticised the French education system when she published a book in 2007 entitled – “15 ways to Save Schools”, he arguments centered on making the system closer to that proposed by Nicolas de Condorcet an 18th century mathematician and philosopher.
It’s a position that is held by many businesses throughout the world – are students leaving higher education ready for work? There is criticism that many education organisations are teaching a much too narrow academic syllabus that has limited value in the real world.
For example to take one example, there is often an inclination within the IT sector to take on non-technology graduates for graduate programming positions. The reason is that some Universities teach coding languages that are not used and that learning these languages makes it actually more difficult to learn the languages that businesses do use. It’s a crazy situation where in some instances you’re actually putting yourself at a disadvantage by studying for a degree in a subject.
Youth unemployment in France is a huge problem currently at around 26% with little sign of it falling. The Government is taking a proactive stance by rolling out a variety of state subsidized jobs in order to get young people the skills and experience that they lack.
The other tactic is to look towards the French Universities and colleges to help better equip young people for the transition from education to employment. One of the difficulties French students face is that they often lack ‘group skills’ like presentation, teamwork and project management skills. Traditionally French students are taught in a very traditional way, rarely getting involved in group projects or course work especially those studying humanities subjects. Businesses really value these skills and they would make students much more employable when they leave education.
The other areas that businesses want is technology skills and also knowledge of other languages particularly English. English is still the language of the multinational to a large degree and it’s a vital skill in a large international company.
Many students are forced to try and develop these skills themselves outside their academic work. Many students in Paris business schools try to spend some time watching the news and finance reports from London in order to improve their English. Fortunately you can access the BBC now from France on a computer by using a technique to hide your IP address – this video BBC Iplayer France shows how.
The other area which has been identified in French education is the lack of digital skills and awareness across most courses. For example there isn’t a single Tourism course in France which covers e-commerce – which is where the rest of the planet is starting to book it’s flights and holidays online.
Its an area where many community colleges actually offer more value, teaching courses which are often much more vocational with real business skills. Of course, not all education can be focused in this way, often certain academic subjects are best taught in a traditional format.