Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Questioning our school choice

I'm feeling anxious today. Recently, the Bambina has seemed not quite herself and her teacher at school agrees that something is not quite right.

Sunday night, I reminded the Bambina that tomorrow there was school and her face went from content to crestfallen within a second. When I asked her what was wrong she said "I don't like school".

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because" was all she could answer. And then "I can't explain".

"Okay, let's review your typical school day and see what it is that you don't like. What do you do first?"

"First the teacher reads us a story. I like that."

"Okay", I say. "Then what."

"Then we read and write. I like that, too. Then there is recréation. That's okay but kind of boring because there's nothing there." (There's no playground equipment at the Bambina's school, if you can believe it.)


"Then we have mathématiques. I don't like that."

Uh-oh, I think to myself. She's not even seven years old and she already is having problems with math...

"I don't like working on the ardoise. I hate it. I want to do math on a piece of paper with a pencil."

The ardoise is a little slate that each child has, just like in the olden days, to do quick sums on. I had no idea that this could be an obstacle to learning.

"Then there's sport. I don't like sport. It's boring and tiring. Then English - also boring."

No surprise there. The Bambina is bilingual and has to sit through English lessons for beginners. Yawn.

"Then we have théatre. That's also boring."

I actually think that the Bambina could like a theatre class if it was done properly but in this case, judging by what they have "performed" for us, I can see her point. In the last performance, they stood around acting like sheep for ten minutes. And that was it.

And then there's art but we don't do much art like we did in kindergarten. We just learn about artists.

I'm happy that the French have taken it upon themselves to imbue knowledge of Kandinsky, Picasso and Robert and Sonja Delaunay, but it sure would be nice if they would also let the kids actually do some art!

"Mommy, if they canceled everything else, even recreation, and just let me write all day, I would love it. I just want to write."

Not sure what to do with this was. Academically, she is doing fine. Her grades are good. But she seems bored or at least uninterested. Is she in the wrong school system? Maybe I should take her out of the French School and put her in the American School? At least she would get to do more art and would be allowed to do math with pencil and paper instead of on a slate.

I'm afraid that if we continue in the French School it will be more of the same, year after year. On the other hand, I might switch her to an American school, and the problem still might not be resolved. And then if we ever do want her to switch back to the French system (say, because we move back to France and we can't afford a foreign private school), she may have a very hard time reintegrating.

And then there is always the possibility of putting her in the Primary Years Programme of an international school (when we move to another country, that is. There is no international school here in Tana). But having read the description of I'm not sure whether to love or hate it. (Any thoughts most appreciated, of course).


Celine 'n Co. said...

Hi, I'm French married to an American and we have decided to put our two kids in the International system. First British system and now International system. While I love the French curriculum (known for its wide variety of subjects which you cannot abandon and give you a good 'culture generale') I do NOT like the way it's taught. Way too rigid for my children. My kids learned topics from research not from a teacher digesting everything (and let's not forget the right color underlined title :-)). I do miss the 'ecriture' because my children have horrible handwriting compare to my French educated nephew/nieces.

They will do (hopefully) the International baccalaureat because this is the only diploma for me that is comparable to the French Bac. No A level/O level/GSCI for them!!!

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Thank you Céline for your comment. My only hesitation with the international system is the risk that the children end up doing a lot of "seeking" but not a lot of finding - basically that they do a lot of exploration with actually learning any facts. I do think learning through exploration can be good but I also value memorization of times tables, good spelling and grammar, and just teaching kids the right answer. I find myself wondering whether the Primary Years Programme puts any emphasis on these (not that the French system does anymore!!).

Penny said...

Just chiming in to say I think the french system puts a big emphasis on the basics - handwriting, good reading skills, spelling, maths and memorizing multiplication tables. Or at least that has been our experience up to CE1 level. It certainly is a rigid system but I think it depends on the child. Some will thrive under such a system whereas others will respond better to a less rigid structure.

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Hi Penny, I just checked out your blog. I'll be reading more of it in the future!

I think you're right that traditionally, the French education system is pretty good about teaching the basics. However, I also fear that Celine may be right about it being too rigid for some kids.

Also, I'm really starting to question the standard at some French schools. When you read that something like 20 percent of French kids still don't read or write well by CM2, something's not right. They don't make the memorize tables in our French school anymore. That's for the parents to force their kids to do at home, if you want to. They don't memorize verb conjugations anymore either. There is no more use of the Bescherelle. And even in the field of "connaissance générale, it's gone downhill. Your average 11-year old in the French system cannot tell you where Germany and Italy are on the map of Europe. So you really have to count on your child going to an exceptional French school to get a good education, it seems.