French schools are ‘failing children’

Writer Natacha Polony argues schools need to focus on teaching pupils to “read, write and count”

17 February 2014

Outspoken journalist and writer Natacha Polony has launched a scathing attack on the French education system - and has laid some of the blame on parents.

In an interview with Le Figaro, she said French schools need to focus on teaching pupils to “read, write and count”, and accused modern parents of having a “consumerist vision of schools”.

The Three Rs, she said, were now on the same educational level as “living together or respecting others”.

She said that children were no longer used to controlling their impulses and doing as they were told, and claimed, “knowledge has been gradually abandoned in favour of what educators call ‘skills’.”

She said: “The willingness of schools to try to teach everything - hygiene, racism, road safety, - has taken away them away from their original mission.”

The writer also had harsh words for education minister Vincent Peillon, who recently called for a defence of schools.

She said: “Like his predecessors he prefers to focus on schedules and ridiculous questions: the academic year, 60,000 additional posts or gender theory.

“In the meantime, schools are unable to teach students to read and write.”

And she criticised moves towards a ‘global’ method of teaching children to read, and argued that “to fight against illiteracy, we must return to conventional methods”.

She said: “Neuroscience show that phonics is more effective than mixed or global methods, yet it is the latter that are preferred by the majority of teachers.”

It is not the first time Mme Polony has attacked the French education system.

In 2007, she published her second book “15 Ways to Save Schools”, in which she proposed a series of reforms for French education that would bring it closer to the system set out in the 18th century by mathematician and philosopher Nicolas de Condorcet.

Photo: Bart Everson

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