Hollande Urges for “More Teachers, Less Classes”

Vincent Peillon, Education Minister, in 2008.
Photo: Flickr.com/jyc1

Cringe-worthy feedback from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report on education serves as a red-flag for the French, urging them to take action in this sector. For a country boasting the second-highest GDP in Europe, backwardness compared to other EU countries regarding schooling seems uncalled for. There is no doubt that President Francois Hollande has all the resources at hand to hoist France above average. The decisive touch will be allocation. At La Sorbonne on October 9th2012, Hollande himself addressed education issues that are on the minds of many people.

He called for “more teachers than classes,” alluding to France’s biggest downfall according to the OECD. With 19 students per teacher as compared to the average 16, French teachers lack the time for individualized teaching. Vincent Peillon, Minister of Education, speaks of a vicious cycle, whereby students drop out for a lack of pedagogical support. His challenge will be to implement changes to bridge inequalities by November 2012 in preparation for next September.

PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) ranks France as the EU country most struck by inequalities, behind both Portugal and Poland. In these other countries, the drop out rate may be higher than France’s 20 %, but the opportunities for employment without a high school degree exist. Francois Bonneau, the President for the Regional Council of the Centre region, notes, “We are facing an increasing disconnect between our school and society, preventing the education sector from entering our era of modernity.”

Not only are the students dissatisfied with the system, so are the teachers. With a starting salary of $24,334 compared to the OECD average of $28,523, the strikes come as no surprise. While Hollande expects to create 10,000 more teaching jobs each year in the next five years, the government will also better support teachers, as their willingness to cooperate with the “modern” system will determine its success.

Hollande speaks of “new pedagogy”—more educators who entertain open dialogue with students, “e-learning,” and, of course, a change in the schools’ schedules. The question of class scheduling has evolved into a heated debate. Should primary school students have more hours and less weeks of class, or vice versa? At La Sorbonne, the President mentioned the transition from more hours to lighter schedules with fewer vacation weeks, thus reversing measures implemented by Sarkozy.

Strongly in favor of “lighter schedules,” Hollande even proposed the suppression of take-home homework, a measure which 68 % of the French oppose. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in Finland, a relaxed approach to learning can yield top ranking results. By increasing salaries and focusing on the individual, Hollande’s education system should make it past the OECD’s average line, advancing one step further towards the Finnish model.


  1. […] is clear. After former President Nicolas Sarkozy cut 80,000 jobs in education during his tenure, President François Hollande’s government is making an effort to reform the system – adding more teachers, reinstating teacher training programs, and increasing the number of years […]

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