Not all that long ago, I came to live in France.
This was more of a culture shock than you can possibly imagine, in some ways a good and in others, frankly horrifying.
I am going to ramble about one of the 'good shocks' today.
I'm going to start by doing some MAJOR stereotyping and say that in England most people who really care about their education end up in a top state school, a grammar school or a private school (however, i am aware this is not always possible). Baring that in mind, I am going to continue stereotyping and say these children, by going to these kind of schools, are showing that they care for their education. Why? Because in England the difference between your average state school and a private school is collosal.
Then we move to France where all schools are pretty much equal. The difference between a private school and a public school here is that, in a private schools you pay couple of hundred euros a term for the priveledge of more rules and less frequently absent teachers.
So, I've come to France and am going to school and suddenly everyone's getting angry. Why?
'La reforme de Darcos.'
It's an educational reform which is going to change the secondary schools here and as far as most of the pupils and some of the teachers are concerned, not for the better. So i went along to their meetings, which were heavy, people standing in front of room of fellow students, spouting their politcal opinions - some getting booed for it, to find out what this reform was about.
I listened carefully to what they had to say, thought about how this doesn't really happen in England or at least i'd never seen or heard of anything like it and thought to myself that frankly, these 'kids' (if you like) really cared and at the same time, had their heads screwed on the right way.
In general, these meetings were about a protest which was to be held one afternoon and even the students that thought we should wait for the reform to be implemented before we made any kind of protest were making some sound points.
But essentially the students weren't happy and why? Because this reform is going to be active from September 2009 and the official version hasn't even been published yet. As was pointed out several times, how are we supposed to show we're unhappy about something which is in the reform, if we don't know exactly what it consists of yet? Aside from, the cutting down on hours (a good thing, french pupils have some of the longest schooling hours in the world), the cutting down on the number of teachers (a bad thing) and the prioritising of certain pupils based on what baccalaureat they take (another bad thing).
After a series of long discussions it was decided that a protest needed to be held in town and it did. At about 1 o'clock last Wednesday afternoon several hundred pupils turned up to make banners and at 10 to 2 we left the school to block off the town and make people listen.
I say WE because I too was involved, with an opportunity to be heard, with an opportunity to make people listen that wouldn't end in some disastrous event (here i look to the current riots in Greece) and with it all being legal, I thought, count me in. These teenagers are clever and more importantly than that; They're right.