American High Schools vs. Lycées Français

Brady Bush, Journalist

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          The French are pretty well known for having a completely different education system. It may seem outrageous to most Americans, but who’s to say which system is better? This Tuesday, I had a student from France, Matthias, shadow me throughout my regular school day in America. Even though he doesn’t speak English very well, he understood most assignments and participated in my classes. I interviewed him after school for his final thoughts on the day.

First and foremost, the whole school system in France is set up a little differently, but mostly the same structure, starting from école maternelle, which is similar to preschool, and ending at lycée, which is the high school equivalent. Students attend the lycée for 3 years in

 total. After the 2nd year, they must choose a “major” that will lead them to take specialized classes withi

that major. In French high school, Matthias said that the students take more scholastic, specialized classes depending on their path. Students do not take classes because they interest them. Instead, students must take the core classes that correspond with their path. For example, he said that there is no such thing as Newspaper class in France. A student with a chemistry major would have to take classes pertaining to that major, such as organic chemistry and advanced math.

Secondly, the actual daily experience at high school is completely different in France. In France, every day is unique. Students do not go to the same classes every day. Their schedule changes daily. Some days you might have to go to school earlier and leave earlier or vice versa. Generally, the typical day involves classes from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., lunch and break from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., and then classes again from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. However, this schedule may change depending on the day. During their extensive lunch period, students can leave school to go home and eat, go out to a restaurant to eat, or just stay and eat at the school’s cantine, or cafeteria. Also, you go to your classes with the same people within your major and grade. Grades do not intermingle in France. Only first years are in one class and only third years are in another.

As far as the classes go, there are a few differences. In France, most teachers lecture a lot, as some do in the States. However, there is virtually no personal relationship between the students and the teacher; French teachers are there to teach, not to mingle with their students. Matthias said that American teachers have a more personal and interactive relationship with their students.

In conclusion, Matthias said he’s just used to the French school system, but he appreciated the American high school experience. He said that it’s more personal, customizable, and free than the French high school system. With all the differences, which experience would you prefer?

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