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EDUCATION

French kids have least school days in all OECD

French pupils are at school for the least amount of days out of all the OECD countries, according to an annual report published on Tuesday.

French kids have least school days in all OECD
Schoolgirls in Strasbourg. Photo: AFP
The OECD think tank found that French pupils' study time at school pales in comparison to the annual hours put in by those in other developed countries. 
 
“France, with its 4.5-day weeks — compared to 5-day weeks in most other countries – remains the country with the fewest school days of the year,” noted OECD anaylst Eric Charbonnier. 
 
In primary school, pupils are at school for 162 days a year, compared to an average of 185 days across the OECD countries. 
 
The fact that France was at the bottom is all the more striking considering that recent reforms actually raised the total numbers of days at school from 144 last year. 
 
The report, called “Education at a Glance 2015”, took a closer look at the study habits of students in all 34 OECD countries.
 
It found that while primary school students spend fewer school hours studying each year – 864 hours compared to the OECD average of 804 – France's middle school students actually studied more than average, with 991 hours vs the OECD average of 916.
 
The report noted that French teachers divided the study time differently to schools in other developed nations. 
 
“French pupils spend more time studying the fundamentals compared to most of their neighbors,” the authors noted, pointing to mathematics, reading, and literacy as prime examples. 
 
Primary school students in France spend 37 percent of their time with “reading, writing, and literacy”, above and beyond the 22 percent average across the countries surveyed, for example.  
 
The pupils put 21 percent of their time into maths, meanwhile, compared to just 15 percent on average for their peers. 
 
The report suggested that France could perform better if it increased resources for the country's disadvantaged areas, specifically by reducing class sizes. 
 
It's unclear at present what bearing the information will have for education officials in France, who have been snowed under with criticism for a sector that was once the pride of the nation. 
 
Indeed, education reforms from earlier this year were so heavily contested that they saw teaching unions protest in the streets, and over 20,000 members of the public and 230 MPs signing a petition for the government to withdraw the bill. 
 
Official statistics have revealed that one in four pupils fails to complete their secondary education successfully, and that the number of students who struggle with basic reading, writing and maths has grown rapidly in the past 15 years. 
 
The social inequalities of the system have increased to the point where the gap between the performance of children from well-off families and poor ones is now one of the biggest in the world, larger than in all other Western European countries or the United States.
 
 
Ten ways France must fix its 'failing' school system
 
 
 

EDUCATION

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.

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