More English must be taught in French primary schools, government says

The government in Paris wants to improve the ability of the French to speak the language of Shakespeare and believes more English lessons at primary school and allowing kids to watch cartoons in English is the answer.

More English must be taught in French primary schools, government says
Patrick Bernard, AFP

The French government wants to introduce more English lessons in primary schools to boost foreign-language teaching across France and improve the nation's poor language skills.

On Wednesday, France's ministry of education will publish a series of recommendations to achieve this, which will include teaching primary schools pupils subjects like science, history and maths in English and broadcasting cartoons in English and other foreign languages on public television.

The report was co-written by a British journalist.

“The aim is to boost the level of pupils in English, and also in a second foreign language. Being able to express oneself correctly is also crucial,” the government said.

France is one of the worst European countries when it comes to teaching foreign languages. According to a Europe-wide survey, France ranks 15th out of 16 countries when it comes to teaching a main foreign language, and 12th for the second foreign language taught at school.

“We must be able to use new technology, and also be capable of giving lessons in other subjects in other languages and extend this learning beyond school,” French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on RMC radio. “We know perfectly well that if our Scandanavian neighbours are so good at English it is because they watch films in their original language and that sort of thing”.

Teachers are supposed to teach some English to their pupils from the very start of primary school, which children enter at the age of six. But in practice, what they learn varies considerably, as teachers are not trained to do this. Some teachers fear the government's recommendations may be difficult to carry out.

“We are all supposed to be able to teach a language to our pupils from the CP [the first class of French primary school] but many teachers don't have the skills to do this,” a teacher told Le Figaro. “An entire lesson in English is unfeasable, we only have the means to introduce a few words in English.”

Improving the nation's education was one of Emmanuel Macron's key campaign promises. Some of the reforms that kicked off this month as kids returned to school were the halving of class sizes for CP (6 and 7 year-olds) in high-priority districts, daily dictation and the return to a four-day week in areas which have chosen to do so.


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