PERSPECTIVE: A Parisian in America


Noe Bronner, Lincoln Lion Tales

As a Parisian studying here for a few weeks, I have noticed a few (a lot actually) differences between the French and the American school system.

I am a 10th grader shadowing students here, at Lincoln High from France. I study partly in English (10hrs per week) in an international public high school in the suburbs of Paris in a place called Seine-Saint-Denis. The school I attend was built after the 2005 riots, in order to create new opportunities for the people there.

The first thing I noticed was that Lincoln’s campus is really open, whereas in France there is only one entry and one exit, with walls all around the campus. The corridors and classes are also well decorated. To compare, in France there are a few posters to make people aware of problems (health, bullying, but that’s it).

Also, here, I have not seen any students smoking cigarettes (which is a good news), unlike in France where a lot of students smoke in front of the school. In fact, you can actually find a lot of stubs on the floor, which, you can imagine, is gross. To avoid this kind of pollution, the Town Hall of Paris even created a fine of 68 euros ($83), but, apparently, it is not really working, as we still see them everywhere.

In the French system, students don’t get to choose their classes, which can be really annoying if you don’t like school, but is also useful since it gives you the basics in every subject. At the end of 10th grade, French students get to choose between two big sections, whether the “general” one (which the majority of 10th graders take) or the “technology” one, where they learn a job.

The general section is divided in three different ways with more hours in certain subjects, the scientific one (math, sciences), humanities (geography, social sciences, politics) and the letters (literature, philosophy). But, you still learn all the other subjects to have the basics in everything. Most people choose their path that results in the best grade.

Since French students all receive a schedule with assigned classes, we have the same classmates for one year, which is a good thing. You can stay with your friends the whole day, but you have to be friends with your classmates. We also don’t have the same periods everyday, which helps with not getting bored.

One of the biggest differences is the length of our school days. We usually start at 8AM and end at 6PM, everyday of the week; some schools even have class on Saturday morning. But our lunch is 1 hour long. Maybe because the lunch is a really important thing in France. The school does not sell us any snacks or drinks. All the students eat in the cafeteria (which has pretty good food) or outside/at home. The cafeteria has a vegetarian part for vegans or for people whose religion does not allow a for certain type of meat.

French schools usually don’t have any activities like band, drama, or choir. They don’t have sports teams, so, obviously, no school spirit. They also don’t have any clubs. It makes school really boring sometimes.

Public schools in France don’t have any dress codes, except for religious symbols. A law written in 2004 forbids those and is always in debate since it is preventing Muslim girls to enter public schools because they have to take their hijab off, which their religion forbids.

And last but not least, French schools, if they do them, don’t make public their statistics about students success depending on their race.

To conclude, I would say that the American school system is better than the French school system. It allows a social and healthy life for the students. But, every French student gets to learn the basics, in most subjects.