Hi everyone !
I am one of the four teachers from the south west of France –near Toulouse- that visited your school from the 9th to the 13th of April. My name is Sylvie Pourcine and I teach English in a « lycée » (high school).
Our school is named after a WW2 heroin called Germaine Tillion. There are around 1600 students aged from 15 to 20 and 80 teachers. It comprises two vocational sections, one specializing in building trades and and another dealing with sales. The main body of our students sit for the « baccalaureat » at the end of their three years with us. They take 8 subjects on average, all of them being compulsory –French, maths, physics and chemistry, biology, history, philosophy, two foreign languages, mainly English and Spanish or German and PE. Then they may decide to take up optional subjects in arts, music or more PE.
Our choice of visiting a Finnish school was motivated by the outstanding results Finnish students obtain with the PISA ratings. We knew how high the standards were and thought that getting a hint of your teaching methods would help us improve ours. Indeed, the very quick response we got from your school seemed to prove how « international » you are to begin with ! Thank you very much Krista !
From then on, we had to fill in a few forms to be allowed by the European Erasmus+ programme to come jobshadowing, that is to attend some lessons, observe teaching methods and get to know your educational system.
To be honest, my idea of your foreign language lessons was totally wrong ! I imagined very small groups engaged in conversation and we found quite large groups of students working on their own or in pairs. Most students and teachers seeem to be involved in communication technologies, at ease with computers and software and equiped with state of the art technology. We, for a start, can’t even rely on a proper wifi connexion. So, yes ! I would love to use quizlets and padlets but know I would have to prepare solution B, just in case.
One statement frequently heard here in France from parents is that their children should enjoy what they do and teachers should rack their heads to make teaching fun. Whatever we try, there always are the ones who are not interested. So you may be right and our President Macron too, when you chose to make only 3 subjects compulsory and let the students choose the others according to their tastes and abilities. We have a much debated idea that students are better off and « adaptable » with a wide range of subjects but they may end up knowing very little of each –as suggested by the PISA tests.
Making choice possible also seem to make Finnish students much more self-reliant. This could also be due to the difficulty of your final exam. Previous governments here in France have tried to enlarge the proportion of children with a « baccalauréat ». They’ve tried so hard to reach their objectives that they have made our final exam very easy to obtain. As a result, students clearly understand that work is no longer indispensable. Only a few post-baccalauréat schools are selective. There are talks of university becoming selective too and this is another reason for strike at the moment !
So, no these are not the first signs of depression. Spring is coming ! We do have hard-working, successful students too…
Anyway, you gave us much food for thought. Many thanks for being so efficient and giving us such a warm welcome. These exchanges are really enriching ! I hope this little answer won’t come too late.
Whatever we do together in the future, I already know some of my students are looking for penpals or even exchanges with English-speaking friends. Would anyone know of young girls or boys hoping to spend the summer in France ?
All the best to you !