French teachers are revolting, as they say. Francois Hollande’s government is debating some “radical” measures – work another half day each week (because French teachers often have Wednesday off and now they will have to work Wednesday mornings), cut the summer holidays from 8 weeks to 6 and weirdly, ban primary school homework on the bizarre grounds that working class children don’t have posh parents to help them and that therefore the middle classes have an unfair advantage.
And what is driving this national soul searching over education? Predictably, it is the international test rankings, mixed in with some old-fashioned Gallic socialism. I have e-mailed my headteacher friend in Brittany for a different perspective. What I do like about this is that it is all very French. The people reforming are on the left, as they should be, and the conservatives are being properly conservative, blocking things, like conservatives should. Not like here, where the conservatives get their blue knickers in a twist trying to be radical reformers, and Labour castigate them for messing with a perfectly sound school system (forgetting that they were doing the proper reforming socialist thing when they were in parliament).
There is a lot of this going on at the moment. In the US, states are deciding whether to sign up to the “Common Core” (a program for basic education that makes our efforts at detailing the national curriculum look like something written on the back of a fag packet) – 45 states have joined in so far, but there is a lot of opposition from some very well respected voices. Read the thread on Diane Ravich’s blog on this.
It is high time that we stopped looking at education as a competitive international game, and concentrate on building truly national and local education systems geared around the needs of families, children, and local communities, not the needs of the nation.