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French Education - Back to Basics at Primary School

Wednesday 15 November 2006

The government in France has banned the use of modern teaching methods of French in all primary schools, insisting on a return to a more orthodox teaching of the language.

The decision has been taken because of concern about the number of pupils leaving primary school without an adequate grasp of the French language or ability to read.

They claim approximately 20% of primary school children enter secondary education without a sufficient level of reading proficiency.

The ruling has caused outrage amongst teachers, who have vowed not the implement the change. Nevertheless, a strike organised in September to oppose the changes and budget reductions received only lukewarm support.

In general, parents have welcomed the change, although some of the parent-teacher associations have expressed reservations.

The new guidance stipulates that language teaching should focus on a proper understanding of letters and sounds (called 'méthode syllabique'), rather than learning through reading of text and phrases (called 'méthode globale').

The government argue that without a proper understanding of the rules and construction of the language, a pupil's ability to use the language is seriously impaired.

Teachers refute the sharp distinction that is being drawn between the two methods of learning and say that a strict implementation of one type of teaching method will be to the detriment of some pupils.

Others argue that the problem is not with the teaching method, but with the French language itself, which is considered to be too complex and contain too many irregularities.

However, it is likely that expat families will welcome the change, as a focus on letters and syllables is likely to be of greater benefit to those whose mother tongue is not French!

Do you welcome the change? Tell us what you think on our Forum pages.

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