Throughout my time in Orléans, I have noticed some key differences in the French lifestyle compared to the Scottish lifestyle, which have been interesting for me to experience.
One thing I have observed during my time here is that the relationships between the children and the teachers are quite different from in Scotland. I have noticed an increased level of respect from the children towards any adult, which is evidenced in some of their mannerisms. For example, whenever another adult enters the classroom, the whole class stands up as a sign of respect to their authority and they then wait to be told to sit back down. In response, I feel as though the teachers are more trusting of the pupils and there is an extra level of maturity from the children, even in CP, which I have seen when I have accompanied the children outside the school grounds.
Perhaps this increased level of maturity comes from the difference in the school structure and the ages at which a child reaches each stage. Children do not start formal schooling until age 6, making them a whole year older and more experienced than the children starting school in Scotland. Equally influential is the amount of time they spend in “maternelle” or nursery school. Children can attend nursery school from the age of 3 until they are 6, though attendance is not compulsory.
Recent debate in France has arose from French President, Emmanuel Macron’s declaration that school will be compulsory from the age of 3 from 2019, which has sparked more concern regarding teacher shortages in France, a large issue. Cortes (2018) explains in his article for Marianne that if Macron’s plan was to go ahead, a minimum of 800 new teaching positions would have to be created to accommodate what is estimated as a further 25,000 pupils. This will be difficult for the French Government as they are already facing teacher shortages, with one article explaining that people are not even considering the profession are they are put off by the insufficient wages and how difficult it is to enter the field academically (Bancaud, 2017). Teacher shortages is an issue that has also plagued Scotland in recent years, however, the cultural aspects of the job, such as the difficult testing to achieve the qualification and the inability for teachers to choose where they want to work has made the profession even less desirable to the French.
Not only is the structure of the school different, the management of the school is also slightly different. The main difference is that the Headteacher or “directeur/directrice” is part of the teaching staff and is responsible for their own class. At my school, the teacher was present in the class 4 days a week and the children had another teacher on Tuesdays. The Ministry of Education (2014) outline three main responsibilities of a Headteacher above and beyond a normal staff member, which are: to have pedagogical control, to control the operation of the school and to maintain relationships with parents and partners of the school. In Scotland, the Headteacher would take a backseat from teaching in order to perform these extra duties, however, in France, this is not the case. As a result, I felt as though the Headteacher’s attention was divided quite often as she performed the role of both a teacher and a director simultaneously, which must put a lot of strain on these teachers.
Bancaud, D. (2017) ‘How to fight against the shortage of teachers in the primary?’, 20 Minutes, 11 October. Available at: https://www.20minutes.fr/societe/2149171-20171011-comment-lutter-contre-penurie-profs-primaire (Accessed: 6 April 2018).
Cortes, A. (2018) ‘Preschool compulsory from 3 years old: ok, but with which teachers?’, Marianne, 28 March. Available at :https://www.marianne.net/societe/ecole-maternelle-obligatoire-des-3-ans-d-accord-mais-avec-quels-profs (Accessed: 4 April 2018).
Ministry of Education (2014) The Job of the School Director. Available at: http://eduscol.education.fr/cid82065/le-metier-de-directeur-d-ecole.html (Accessed: 5 April 2018).