Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's finish off what the French Revolution started

That seems to be President Hollande's motto and not in a good way either. He seems to be so determined to introduce égalité that, as so often the case, liberté and even fraternité are left out of his calculations. Perhaps that is because égalité is the easiest of the three to control from the centre and to impose by force.

Thanks to Instapundit we get the story of the latest proposal for educational reform in France where schooling has been on a very high standard until now, despite much of it being run by the state. There is a link to an article on the subject in the Wall Street Journal: "France to Ban Homework. Really".
François Hollande has a bold new plan to tackle social injustice and inequality in France: ban homework. Introducing his proposals for education reform last week at the Sorbonne, the French president declared that work "must be done in the [school] facility rather than in the home if we want to support the children and re-establish equality."
Banning out-of-school assignments would put France on the cutting edge of pedagogical fashion, though it wouldn't be entirely unprecedented. An elementary school in Maryland recently replaced homework with a standing order for 30 minutes a day of after-school reading. A German high school is also test-running a new homework ban, after an earlier reform lengthened the school day and crowded out time for extra-curriculars such as sports or music.
Actually, banning homework is far from cutting edge. That was tried in Britain, certainly for younger children for many years, the argument being exactly the one the French President is using: it is not fair as some children might get help from parents and some might not. The result, as we know, was that generations of children grew up with large sections of them being barely literate or numerate, let alone capable of learning anything more complicated than the three Rs.

Furthermore, it became obvious that with no homework required by the school inequality became even more pronounced as it was now only those children whose parents could and would devote time and energy to educating their offspring who prospered. To some extent, I am glad to say, this practice is now being abandoned across the country but school requirements remain lamentably low.

The article is right in pointing out that substituting more activity at school for homework is not the same as deciding not to have any of either. But then, M. Hollande looks to other matters: school, he pronounced at the Sorbonne, is where the child becomes a citizen of the future. What he would really like, I suppose, is to take the children away from their parents completely and to have them brought up entirely by the state.

This, one can argue, is excellent news for Britain. At least, our undereducated children will no longer have to compete with the French. But, I suspect, the rejoicing (if there is any) will be short-lived. French parents care far more about these matters than, I am sad to say, most British ones do. They will be out in force, demonstrating against government proposals to destroy the French school system.


  1. Most homework in my experience both at state & private school was busy-work and of little use. Though banning it as a government edict seems a bit daft.

  2. It varied in my experience. But that is not the reason for the ban, as is clear. Hollande seems to be quite unhinged.

  3. It's true that large portions of the most recent generations of British children have grown up functionally illiterate.

    But I am not sure it's down to a homework ban.

    It's largely due to two things: the imposition of the absurd "child-centred education" theories of the, well, theorists and the complete breakdown of discipline in British state schools. The refusal of teachers to use phonics in teaching reading is probably a major contributor as well.

  4. And not expecting children to do any work as evidenced by the homework ban is another contributing factor, I'd say.

  5. Under so called Local Management of Schools in the late Eighties, the board of governors on which I served accepted this pearl as part of its "curriculum development statement"
    "It is the policy of the school to make the students responsible for their own learning"
    It was an infants' school!

    Whilst the document was something we were supposed to produce for ourselves, this was a draft sent by the County to "help" us. With only half a dozen dissenters, every school in the county of every age group solemnly adopted this nonsense. It was like a North Korean general election - but then, the leader of the council did go to North Korea on jollies!

    It was an interesting time for secondary head teachers. The reorganisation removed the sixth forms from most schools and the heads then had to re-apply for their own jobs, giving ample scope for selection by political affiliation and correctness.

  6. I also recall that in the late eighties a number of secondary school teachers and heads complained about the fact that children were arriving in their schools without basic reading or writing ability, never mind 'rithmetic. My own personal experience of primary school children at the time would confirm that. I recall going with a class of 10 - 11 year olds to the Museum of London and finding that a large proportion of them could not read the labels under the various exhibits. This was a very ordinary school in West London with children from all backgrounds, i.e. not ones with particular learning difficulties.

  7. My children go to a French elementary school in West London. It'll be interesting to see what if anything filters down. Currently my 7 year old gets set homework, and being in French my wife helps him do it. FWIW Hollande is right in that children whose parents give them support are already edging ahead, but holding back everyone is not only stupid, it doesn't work as Helen has explained. O/T but perhaps worth mentioning is that parents at the school are largely split into two factions,ex-pats here for a few years, and more long term English residents. The former group want English to be a bigger part of the curriculum, as they feel this is a chance for the kids to become fluent in English, and the latter who want French to be more stressed as the whole point is to give their kids a French education; they'll pick up English automatically simply by being here.

    We should also note that one of his election promises was to recruit 60,000 more teachers, who will now be even freer to teach not having any homework to mark.

  8. Why does he need 60,000 more teachers? Are there that many children coming up to school age in France? Not having home work to mark does not seem to result in more teaching. We've been there.

  9. And, of course, the equally -- if not more so -- important question concerns the subtance of the very curriculum itself...