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French Teaching Resources Riled In Plans To Lift Reading Skills

Opinion / March 13, 2013

Alistair Owens

A significant difference of opinion is currently raging in France between the Ministry of Education and the teaching resources in primary schools. France is concerned that, in common with the UK, they too are sliding down the only OECD world league table in education. Currently they lie in 29th position out of 45 countries for reading skills in 10 year olds. Before we crow too much Britain lies in the mid 20s for most subjects but is slightly ahead of France in reading skills where we hold 11th place.

The process of learning practice, long recognised as an essential factor in learning retention has become socially divisive say the French Ministry of Education. Setting reading homework in primary school as a means of improving the reading standards should be curtailed as it will be mostly those in better off homes that would comply placing children from poorer families at a disadvantage. Instead the Ministry of Education want to improve reading skills by adding an extra half-day per week to the school teaching programme in primary schools.

Vincent Peillon the Educational Minister of France said the reforms would give “teachers time to teach and children time to learn”. He pointed out that 100,000 young French people currently leave school each year without qualifications and said change has been long overdue until now “no one has had the courage to do it.”

This issue has caused considerable alarm within the teaching resources who are now angered at the increased workload and believe that these changes will not help. They are additionally angered by the Ministers further proposal to shorten summer holidays from eight weeks to six weeks as a further means of improving the quality of primary schooling.

This radical move, which has clearly shaken the corridors of teaching resources in France, has yet to be accepted. Threatened strikes by teachers are almost a forgone conclusion. How many workers would openly accept working harder for longer without a fight? Yet at least it is a radical plan designed to implant a paradigm shift in the programme without which I would imagine little could be achieved. Negotiations are bound to be fraught but the stakes are high for the children involved. The alternative programme is clearly not working and without a substantial shake of the tree little else can be achieved. If only we had such a plan to turn the fortunes of the UK schooling programme around. And then stuck to it.

Alistair Owens


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