Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Give me an A

Right before Christmas, we handed in our first assignment for my masters program.  It was a 15 page business case study on "la success story" of Franck Provost, analyzing how he went from a simple hairdresser to the head of an internationally-renowned group, with several different franchises covering all price ranges (Franck Provost, Jean-Louis David, Saint Algue, Fabio Salsa, etc).

Yesterday, our program director came by during the break with several galettes des rois and some champagne to wish us "Bonne Année".  He also handed back our reports and gave us our grades.  Once everyone realized that he was planning on announcing our grades out loud, in front of the entire class, a nervous twitter started around the room.  I'd say the average age of my classmates is probably 45, and I had to laugh at the effect it had on them, even at their age.  As soon as they saw him holding a piece of paper with all of our names on it, I started hearing choruses of "Oh non...non, pas comme à l'écolé, s'il vous plait".

It brought me back to my previous experiences with the French school system in Bretagne, first at the University of Rennes and then as an English teacher.  I remember how horrified I was the first time a professor read our test scores out loud - not because I had bad grades, but because I felt so bad for those who did. I mean, how mortifying! 

It took me years to understand that it was just a different way of going about things, and that the French school system often used "shaming" to try to keep kids in line.  I rationalized it by thinking that the kids eventually grew a thick skin and go used to it, but seeing how my fellow students reacted made me wonder if it wasn't just skin deep after all... But then again, the French trounce the Americans on an annual basis when it comes to standardized testing, so who am I to judge?

For those of you wondering what my grade was - I got a 15/20, which I am very satisfied with. I know we all put in a ton of work on this - time estimates ranged from 50-100 hours, but I am still thinking they graded us easy for the first assignment. The lowest grade given was a 12 and the highest was a 17.....and even if I care more about how much I learn than what grade I get, part of me still hopes the easy grading continues for the rest of the year!



Blogger Canedolia said...

15/20 - nice work!

I've wondered the same thing as you about the reading out of the grades, so it was interesting to hear how all those adults responded. I personally don't agree with it because for the ones at the bottom who do their best and still get low grades, it must be horrible, and even for those who do do well, it's motivating them to be better than the other 29 students, not to be the best they can be.

The UK and France get fairly similar results in international tests and we don't publicise marks like that, so I'm not convinced it makes any difference.

January 13, 2013 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Eileen said...

I bet the reading aloud of grades is more a thing actually of the generation of your classmates. I've never seen or heard of it being done at the school I work at, and at the conseils de classe, our chef doesn't even like it if we talk about class rank. I'm not sure it's entirely a thing of the past, of course---I think a teacher could definitely still do it if he wanted---but many would never think of doing it.

Plus, there are no more grades in elementary schools in France!

As for whether the whole "shaming" business is over, that's another question entirely...

January 13, 2013 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Gwannel said...

Well done! Not to sound like a dickhead, but I was always top of my class at school, and back in the day it would have made me squirm to have that announced to everyone as well.

January 13, 2013 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Good job! While they didn't read the actual scores out loud, at my course in Strasbourg they posted a list of those who passed. If you weren't on the list, you didn't pass. I guess it is all rooted in their baccalaureat program- posting the list of everyone's names, as well as grades.

January 13, 2013 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger purejuice said...

congrats, i love these tales of what france is like.

January 14, 2013 at 2:44 AM  
Blogger The Paris Chronicles said...

I didn't know all those salons were in the same group. That must have been an interesting case study. Is Provost going to soon move to Russia with all his riches? :)

15/20 is a solid A so pat yourself on the back.

I absolutely despise the French education system and its old regime top down "pedagogy." And now I just read that Sciences Po is trying to retract their affirmative action stance, after the death of director Richard Descoings. Despite Descoings' odd private life, he did bring SP into the 21st century and now the candidates to replace him are all saying they will repeal this reform and bring back the "culture generale" component to the entrance exam. That's another way of saying "NO ARABS FOR US!", along with the "must speak French fluently" component they are hoping to reinstate.

I seriously need a reinforced forehead with all the head to desk banging I do when I read news like this.

It's funny, before I had children go through the school system here, I thought the system was the envy of the world. And then I saw it with my own eyes: static, hide bound and full of lazy instructors who strike at the drop of a hat and never even make a notation on the schoolwork turned in, undoubtedly because they can't be arsed to read it.

No wonder the system turns out such dour people. A lifetime of being beaten down, told you are a cretin and a moron and will never amount to anything will do that to you.

January 14, 2013 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Jacquelyn Biondi said...

Sam, I totally remember that from University of Rennes. Ugh! I was only ok in that in Journalism class we took, but the History class I didn't have a prayer in! I even remember they read them when we took our placement tests, correct? That or they posted all the scores. Either way...stressful!

January 16, 2013 at 9:55 PM  

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