This morning, before going to my extremely fulfilling (and temporary) new waitressing job, I have read another article about education in France. Besides serving pizzas, I still have a two students who are taking in a few weeks the big bad exam called the BAC, and man, that’s harder than I thought. I mean, it’s harder to contain my frustration.
Lately, in France, there is a trend called “indulgence”. We must be indulgent to our pupils, for some reasons that I don’t get because last time I checked they had more than two brain cells. Basically, when it comes to English, it is becoming ridiculous, considering that one of the exam, called “listening comprehension”, follows that procedure (and it’s been this way for six years now!):
-The student listens about a subject he/she already knows (because there is only four subjects possible)
-Then, he writes about it IN FRENCH
Yeah, I had the same reaction: what’s the point? They are studying English, not translation nor French as a Second Language. They also have a speaking test, but that one is a joke considering that they have to learn by heart a summary (which their teacher actually corrected months before) and then to recite it… to the same teacher; and a writing test, like writing a letter, an essay… I should also mention that, in average, a senior high schooler (it’s called a terminale in France) is having between two and three hours of English lessons per week.
I don’t care about how the French educational system works, actually, because I am not a part of it. What I care about is the students, and how this system is lying to them. One of my students is Gavin, whom I talked about in a previous post, and Gavin already knows that he is going to nail his exam, so he told me “Why bother? I do the bare minimum, and I’ll be fine!” He is 100% right. He is not encouraged, so why bother?
Being indulgent is not helping our pupils. When it comes to language, we cannot lie to them, or just arrange the truth. What is happening now is that they have good grades in English, but they are aware of their flaws. I recently talked to a bunch of them in the restaurant I am working on (they over heard me talking in English to American customers) and they were as frustrated as I was. Their fist question, after “where do you come from?”, was “how did you learn to talk?”
Learning a language isn’t only about getting good grades. Learning a language can open doors, but in France, apparently, these doors are sealed. Am I crazy to think that it’s not normal that a 17 years old in France, who is learning English for six years, is not able to utter a single sentence without preparing it before?
My friends tell me that I am too harsh because I am a language teacher, and I am expecting too much. That’s probably the case, but when I decided to become a teacher, I decided that my students’ successes were the most important point and today, I realize that we are lowering the bar for nothing.
Education is not about being indulgent. Learning a language is not jumping through hoops. And English matters as much as mathematics and P.E.