School reports are too negative

Pupils and parents will soon be receiving school reports meant to give pointers on progress at school.

17 June 2014

PARENTS will soon be receiving a school report – bulletin scolaire – meant to give them and their children pointers about progress and what they can do to improve.

Reports are sent out each term with the next due in June. Official guidelines tell teachers to avoid being vague or negative in comments – giving encouragement and precise advice is better, officials say.

Parents, however, say that despite the good intentions the bulletins, which also include grades out of 20 per subject and overall (though not necessarily in primary school) are sometimes overly skimpy.

It can help to read between the lines.

School inspectors in Sarthe have made a “glossary” of what teachers’ terms really mean: saying sérieux is a supreme compliment whereas insuffisant indicates total dissatisfaction and décevant shows irritation, but not exactly anger, with the child.

Assurance, attentif and capacités are usually mentioned in the negative and are warning signs, meaning the child lacks confidence, is inattentive, or is not living up to their potential, while décrocher/décrochage (giving up/switching off) should be a major red flag. Difficultés indicates weaknesses that are not necessarily the pupil’s fault.

This is also a time of year when older pupils will be asked to make a choice related to the type of Baccalauréat they want to study – literary (L), social sciences (ES), scientific (S) or one of the technical or vocational versions – as well as “specialities” and optional extras within these, such as an extra foreign language, sport or history of art. The choice has to then be agreed by the school.

Having an idea of what job the student wants to do can obviously help with selection but what careers’ advice is on offer?
One option is using the services of a psychologist specialised in evaluating people’s work aptitudes, which is called conseil en orientation. Catherine Larcher, from the Alpes-Maritimes, told Connexion how her 16-year-old son, Raphaël, had difficulty deciding on which Bac to do.
“He visited a psychologue who had developed his own personality tests, designed to discover intellectual abilities, anxiety and stress levels, motivations, self-confidence, ability and desire to interact with others, problem- solving capacities, work ethics etc.

“They were very thorough - it took two hours to do all the questionnaires. Then we went back a few weeks later to get the results and talk them through.

“We got a very complete picture of what professions could interest Raphaël and he found it a very positive experience. He had been thinking of law, but wasn’t sure about whether he was suited to it, but the results confirmed he had the right aptitudes so it gave him the confidence to take that path.”

For the tests and two follow-ups to discuss the results, the fee was €250, she said.
You can find such professionals with an internet search using your town or area and “psychologue orientation”. Look for qualified psychologists specialising in orientation (to which is often added scolaire - school - or professionnelle - professional).

Collèges and lycées have a Centre d’Information et d’Orientation (CIO) which is open at least a few hours a week and has leaflets and other information about options on offer. Pupils, with or without their parents, can also make an appointment for a personalised advice session to help them with educational and career decisions. All the CIO services are free.

Shows called salon de l’étudiant, held in large towns and cities, are also good occasions for finding information about courses, careers and available funding as well as health services, driving lessons, specialist counselling and banking for young people.

The site www.orientation-pour-tous.fr is official and has a lot of information about careers and training for pupils, students and school-leavers. It can also help adults thinking about a career change and is a good place for information about training. It also tells how work experience can be validated as equivalent to a qualification.

Photo: ActuaLitté - Attribution-Share-Alike Licence

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