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Why bic pens pose a problem to teachers in France as schools restart

The BIC 4 Colour pen is a French design classic that is much loved by school kids - and much maligned by teachers

The BIC 4 Colours is a French design classic and the pet peeve of many teachers Pic: Ana Belen Garcia Sanchez/shutterstock

Many teachers have already banned the BIC 4 Colours pen from their classrooms and the ones that have not are bracing for the chorus of clicks and complaints it creates.

First produced in 1970 by Mr Bich to help French students’ writing by providing four colours in one pen, the BIC 4 Colours has become a classic of French design. 

In recent years the pen has seen its popularity continue to grow, generating a significant following on Tik Tok, where kids share videos showing off their collection or explaining how to personalise them.

 

@_sam_2906 Personnalisation de stylo bic 4 couleurs #stylo4couleurs #pourtoi ♬ Summer - Calvin Harris

However, the BIC 4 Colours have a long history of annoying teachers, and not just because of the clicking sound it makes.

Read more French school pupils’ obsession with Bic pens is disrupting classes 

‘Don’t click or I’ll confiscate it’

Teachers have been speaking out about their old bugbear again ahead of the return to school on Monday August 4.

"When it’s just one kid going click, click, you can live with it. But when it's ten of them doing it...", said Guislaine David, Co-secretary general of the SNUipp-FSU teachers’ union to BFMTV.

She says that even if the pupils who take pleasure in subtly annoying teachers are a minority “the little sound of 33 pupils clicking from blue to green then to red becomes very tiring over the course of a day.”

Another teacher, Mr Latour, said: "At the start of the year, I tell pupils that they can only have the pens if they don’t click them all the time, or I will confiscate them.”

‘These pens are a blight’

The constant clicking is only part of the problem. The pens have become the objects of jealousy.

“It’s a blight,” confided maths teacher Geraldine in Le Parisien. Pupils buy, trade and steal them, or make deals to do homework in exchange for the pens, she said.

While a basic BIC 4 Colours only costs €1.29, there are hundreds of different models available in various colours or with images of pirates, pandas, princesses or kittens on. The Elysée palace sells its own fetching red, white and blue version for €3.33.

French jewellers Philippe and Mathieu Tournaire even sell a white gold and diamond studded BIC 4 Colours for €24,500.

“Collecting them is like a game for kids, it's a trend,” Ms Bocquet from a college in Essonne told BFMTV. “So many of these pens end up in my desk because they create so much conflict between in the classroom and in the playground,”

‘Bad for handwriting’

If their nuisance value for teachers is not argument enough for parents to stop buying the pens, then perhaps their effect on pupils’ handwriting will convince them.

“From an ergonomic point of view, they are not so good,” Ms Marichal, a teacher from Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines) told BFMTV. “Most students have bad handwriting when they use them.” At 1.1cm the Bic 4 Colours is thicker than the standard BIC, which is only 0.8cm. 

The price is also much higher than that of the standard BIC ballpoint, which only cost 80 cents. 

However, with the increased back to school bonus of around €400, many parents will certainly cede to demands and buy enough of the trendy pens to keep teachers' teeth grinding.

Related articles 

Millions of families in France receive ‘return to school’ grants 

Abaya dress worn by some Muslim girls is banned from schools in France 

Teachers baffled by Macron’s plan to ‘teach history chronologically’ 

Macron wants (some) pupils back at school a week earlier in France 

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