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EDUCATION

French school pupils ranked ‘worst at maths’ in all of EU

French school children have seriously under performed in an international maths and science testing, according to a new report.

French school pupils ranked 'worst at maths' in all of EU
Photo: AFP
A report published on Tuesday has made uncomfortable reading for the French.  
 
The study, carried out by education research group Timss, revealed that French 10-year-olds were bottom of the class in Europe when it comes to maths, and second last to Cyprus in science. 
 
In maths the French students finished the test with an average score of 488, below the EU average of 527 (the international average was weighted at 500 – see full list on the right). 
 
Some 13 percent of these French children didn't reach the score of 400, a fact the Education Minister said showed that “they didn't prove that they have the basic knowledge” on the subject. 
 
“The results are bad, many French students are under performing,” Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said in a statement. 
 
“France is quite behind compared to the other countries of the European Union.”
 
The education minister wasn't about to accept the blame however, instead pointing the finger at former Prime Minister and newly installed rightwing presidential candidate for 2017 François Fillon.
 
Vellaud-Belkacem criticized the cuts to teacher numbers between 2007 and 2012, when FIllon was in charge and the curriculum he brought in in 2008 that was judged “badly adapted”.
 
“I hope the Timss study of 2019 and those after show the choices made in this presidency were the right ones,” she said referring to the government's move to restore thousands of teaching posts.
 
French eight graders (known as CM1 in France) spend 193 hours a year on maths, which is far and away above the 158 hours spent on average by other EU children. 
 
In science, meanwhile, the 5,000 French children who took the test scored 487 compared to the EU average of 525.
 
They typically spend just 56 hours a year on the subject, compared to a 67-hour average across Europe. 
 
The study is the largest international assessment of maths and science education in the world. 
 
While the report has been carried out six times over the last 20 years, 2015 marked the first time that the French took part, meaning it's impossible to determine any trends in the data.
 
Topping the maths class in the EU was Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the UK. 
 
Internationally, it was the Asian countries that scored best, with Singapore (618) and Hong Kong (615) leading the way. 
 
Kuwait, South Africa, and Morocco were at the bottom of the list. 

Around 600,000 pupils around the world took part in the tests. 
 
“The positive trends indicate education is improving worldwide, and it’s not at the expense of equity between high and low achieving students,” the group said in a statement.
 
Tuesday's report is the second blow for France's education system this month, after a separate study found the French to be the worst English speakers in the EU
 
 

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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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