View Full Version : France finally starts to reform its antiquated education system

12-10-08, 15:07
The Economist : A new reckoning - the purity of mathematics loses its prestige (http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12381775)

I think that The Economist summarises perfectly the situation in France in the first paragraph of this article :

France may think of itself as a literary society, but real prestige is reserved for mathematics. Excellence in maths determines access to the elite, via ultra-selective grandes écoles such as the École Nationale dfAdministration or the Polytechnique.

The Belgian education system used to be heavily modelled after the French one. Things have changed a bit since the regionalisation of education in the 1990's, but maths, along with Latin and Greek, remain prestigious to this day for reasons that do not make sense to me.

Still nowadays in many good French and Belgian secondary schools about one third of the students take maths as a main option (e.g. 6 to 8 hours per week, instead of the compulsory 4 hours) and one fourth of the students take Latin.

With the advent of computers and smart phones, traditional maths are increasingly useless for the biggest part of the population. Only people with highly technical jobs (not even the bunch of IT jobs) like engineers or accountants really do need strong maths skills.

Latin is useful if one wants to study theology (to become a priest), or become a scholar of classical literature. It might be of moderate use to people studying law, medicine or biology, although the classical terms and grammar taught in schools is a world apart from scientific Latin. So after all it is not of much help.

For most people, schools would do a better job teaching them more practical everyday skills like foreign languages, marketing, communication, team work or even geography. In the globalised world we live in, a French-speaker who cannot speak English, or someone who doesn't know where Nagoya is has more chance to be ridiculed by his/her colleagues than if he/she does not read Latin or doesn't remember the Pythagorean theorem by heart.

The main reason for which mathematics are still so prestigious in France is that they are said to be a good reflection of IQ. If so, why not just give students an IQ test before starting secondary school and/or university and save them a lot of time and burned neurons ?

03-12-08, 21:24
IQ test is a good idea. Test is good for exams too, but it is not for all subjects, because, for example, test of history is very bad. It science is for debate.

Cambrius (The Red)
04-07-09, 23:27
About time...