French teachers: No aid for slow kids

French elementary teachers are rallying against government rules requiring extra work for slow learners, reports the Washington Post. They say it violates the French ideal of providing the same education for all students.

A new rule requires teachers to do two hours a week of remedial work with failing elementary students. Alain Refalo refused to obey the ministry directive. (The French education system is run from the top down.)

(Refalo declares) that youngsters cannot work fruitfully after a six-hour classroom day. Moreover, he pointed out, the ministry had just announced budget cuts in which 3,000 special education teachers were being eliminated — and whose jobs were to help students in difficulty.

In a protest letter to the education ministry, Refalo complained that American “ideas such as competition, individualist thinking, privatization and survival of the fittest were being introduced.”

Instead of doing remedial work, Refalo used the extra time to organize theater workshops, with an eye to encouraging his 10-year-old pupils to express themselves and to delve into literature.

What about the students who can’t “delve into literature” because they can’t read well?

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  1. Just as an aside, the French do signficantly less socail promotion. Their low performers are regularly held back, sometimes even for two or more years.

  2. How involved are French parents?

  3. > …Refalo complained that American “ideas such as competition, individualist thinking, privatization and survival of the fittest were being introduced.”

    Boy does Refalo have a twisted image of American education ideals.

    > …Basically, [the French concept] established that elementary schools should be government-run, free for anybody and ready to teach the same thing at the same time, so children everywhere across France have an equal chance at success.

    So how do we differ?

  4. >So how do we differ?

    Well, the French have actual standards that they enforce, for one.

  5. I taught English in France. Slow learners were tracked into different classes, at least by the end of middle school, where they awaited their inevitable promotion into a vocational secondary school, graduation from which would leave them somewhat skilled in a regionally popular trade but otherwise virtually unqualified to attend university.

    One leveling wind of American education is that everybody is given a second chance; it’s tough, but former slow learners can hit the books and earn a college degree, often beginning in community college. That opportunity does not exist in France, which makes it all the more important to see that struggling elementary school students are put on the level before it’s too late.

  6. SuperSub says:

    The question here is not only whether struggling French students deserve extra instruction, but also whether the mandate by the French government is educationally sound.

    The article glosses over Refalo’s primary concern that simply adding two hours of instruction would stress students that are already struggling. As we’ve already seen here, simply adding more time does not necessarily work.