Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Problem with English Teachers in France

Of course there isn't a problem with "all" English Teachers in France, just some.  Our 17 year old recently had some trouble with his English teacher and I know he's not the only one.  The problem is that she has been consistently marking him harder than the other native French speakers in the class.  She seems to think it's not fair to mark him the same, as English is his mother tongue.  This would be fine if he is given extra marks in all the other subjects he takes in French (which is not his native language), but no, he is marked exactly the same as everyone else in these subjects (which is as it should be).

It's particularly evident when she gives him the mark for oral participation (which is an arbitrary mark decided by her).  In the first term he was given 15/20 which brought his overall average down from 19 to 17.  He tackled her about it and explained that he didn't put his hand up in class all the time because he's English and he obviously can answer all the questions and felt he should let the others have a go.  She said she understood and yes he was doing the right thing, but she didn't change the mark.  In 2nd term the participation mark went up to 16 - he was still unhappy, but we told him to make sure he put his hand up in everything and made it impossible for her to mark him down.  In the 3rd term she gave him 15/20 bringing his average mark again down this time from 19,5 to 17,6.  Ok 17,6 is not a bad mark and a native French speaker would be very happy to get such a mark in Premiere, but our son is English, he speaks, reads and writes English perfectly fluently (better than the teacher in fact, which I suspect might be part of the problem).  He wants to be an English Teacher in France and these marks are going to be seen by the establishment he wishes to study in next year.  What will they think of his results when they know he is English and French students from other Lycees will have higher marks than these?

We sent an email to the teacher direct to ask her to reconsider the mark.  She made all sorts of very lame excuses.  In one part she even said that this mark was a "bonus" for him and that it was a way of giving extra marks for "non-native speakers" of the language!  There we have it, in black and white, blatant prejudice and proof that she is marking him differently to the rest of the class.  We went to see the Deputy Director who said there was nothing he could do and was quick to add that she regards our son as a "non-native speaker" the same as the other students - I wonder how long it took him to think that one up!  I just wish we'd made a formal complaint in the first term.  We know of an English girl in the year below who complained and was given a different teacher.  Her argument was that it was ridiculous that her average in German was 19 and her average in English (her mother tongue) was 17!

Anyway, rant over!   As I said in the beginning, not all English teachers are like that.  Some seem to like having an English student in the class and take advantage of having the opportunity to give the other students the chance to hear English spoken by a native speaker.  Then there are others, like this teacher, who feel threatened by having an English student in their class and obviously feel that they are at an unfair advantage.  Which of course they are, but they are at a massive disadvantage in all the other 8 or 9 subjects they have to study!

I hate making fusses, but I do feel we have to try and do something about this.  We plan to write a formal letter of complaint to the Directrice and ask that he not have this teacher next year as it is too important a year for him to be marked down in this way.

If anyone else out there has had any similar experiences with their children, I'd be pleased to hear from you.


  1. I think the same thing happens here too. Eve is still too young to do English lessons but lots of my friends have said that their bilingual children get discriminated against... and yes, they usually do speak better English than the teacher. Sometimes the problem is solved here for bilinguals by doing things like Proficiency or Cambridge Advanced exams. Would that work in France too?
    Nice to read your blog.

  2. Thanks for the comment Vicky. I'll have to look into that - hopefully it won't be necessary. If he get's a different teacher next year he should be fine - it's just really annoying! You've got all this to come!