One thing that took some getting used to when I first arrived in France was the structure of the school day. This is something that is very different to Scotland. There are aspects of the school day that I believe are very good, however, there are also ways in which is believe the Scottish system works better. The school day structure just shows how various parts of the day are deemed more important in other countries.
The school day begins at 8:30 am. In the beginning of placement, I found this strange as primary school in Scotland do not usually start until 9:00 am (Chevalier-Karfis, 2016). This is not considered an early start and the children are always at school on time, ready to start the day. This is another difference. Over my six weeks of placement, not once has a child in my class ever been late to school. They are all punctual and begins lessons on time. The children have a morning break starting at 10:15 am until 10:30 am. However, I have noticed that often, the teachers do not stick to this time frame. When the bell goes for break the children do not rush out of their seats to go outside. If the teacher is still teaching, she will continue the lesson until they are finished. This means that sometimes the children are going out 5 sometimes 10 minutes late. However, the teacher allows them to stay in the playground longer if this has happened. This has happened a lot during my time at school. Therefore, it can be confusing when teaching lessons as sometimes pupils won’t be in the class when they are supposed to be.
Lunchtime is the biggest difference between France and Scotland. I couldn’t believe it when I was informed at the beginning of placement that lunch is two hours long. This is something I was definitely not used to. In Scotland children don’t even receive a full hour for lunch, it is usually fifty minutes. However, in France lunchtime is seen as their big meal of the day. Therefore, most of the children in my school go home at lunchtime to have a meal with their family. From sitting in the staffroom, I was able to see the kinds of things that French people typically eat at this time of day. A lot of the teacher sit and have a pasta dish or a vegetable dish with bread on the side. I felt very strange the first lunchtime sitting there with my sandwich. Having a nap at lunchtime is also something French people like to do; therefore, two hours is the perfect amount of time to enjoy a meal and have time to sleep before getting back to work. I can see how this might work and it gives both children and teachers a good break in the middle of the day and can come back into class feeling refreshed. However, I personally have found lunchtimes my least favourite part of the day. Commencing at 11:30 am and finishing at 13:30 pm is a long time to sit around. Although it gives me time to get work done, I would rather get back into the swing of the school day. I believe that it would make more sense to cut lunch by and hour and finish school an hour early. Nevertheless, this is not the French culture and I respect that lunch is their important family time.
The children have an afternoon break as well as a morning break. Another aspect of the school day that differs from Scotland. Having two breaks as well as lunch means that the children spend just over an hour in the classroom working before they have a break. This is something that seems to work in France as the children have the chance to release their energy. Because the French education system focuses a lot on French and maths the children do not participate in a lot of expressive arts subjects. I believe that this is part of the reason why they are afforded so many breaks. The children focus so much when they are in the classroom, they sit quietly and get on with their work, so I believe it is only fair that they have the chance to go outside and play.
The school day finishes at 15:40 pm, this is the time I used to finish high school in Scotland. Most primary schools would typically finish around 15:10 pm. Overall, the French school day is longer than a typical primary school day in Scotland, however, they have more breaks and a longer lunch, meaning that they don’t spend any longer working. Personally, I like the way in which schools are structured in Scotland, this is because it is what I am used to and do not enjoy the two-hour lunches when I am in school. However, I believe that this structure works well in France.