Just at the start of a heated national debate about the proposal to hold lectures in English at French universities, Agence Clé invited teachers, parents and experts to talk about English in the French school system.
The event started with a presentation by Divya Brochier about the state of ESL across the globe, highlighting interesting projects and political decisions in Asia, Africa and LatAm.
I had the pleasure to moderate a pitch session of five French startups in the ESL space, some of whom you might already be familiar with from EDUKWEST, followed by an expert panel.
Pre-event I had enough time to reflect on the picture I have ofthe French and their relationship with the English language. As you will probably know by now, I have been living in France for about seven years now so I had my fair share of experiences, especially as I had started as a language coach for both English and German.
To make it short, I was usually not impressed by what the French school system was capable of. There is simply too much focus on theory and not enough on real use of the language.
As part of the roundtable discussion Isabelle Mazarguil, founder of NosJuniors.com presented a survey among parents that basically came to the same conclusion. 61% of the parents surveyed think that the school does not prepare the children for the use of English in the collège (ages 11 to 14) and 81% of parents feel that the collège does not prepare them to properly speak English later on.
But there is hope nonetheless. What the event showed is that there is passion about the issue and to my surprise the most progressive person of the expert panel (maybe the event) was Rémi Danquin from the French Education Ministry. He asked questions like why in a multicultural country like France we don’t teach Arabic or Turkish. He also pointed out that other countries like Germany or the northern countries in the EU work on their accent whereas the French tend to speak English with a very heavy accent and even look down on others who work on theirs as snobs.
Just as informative and insightful to my mind was Gaël Le Dreau’s presentation of the primelangues project on the pedagogical and cognitive benefits of teaching scientific subjects in a foreign language, i.e. teaching math in Russian and his perseverance that it’s not all about English but rather about multilingualism. This aligns with a proposal by the European Commission that every EU citizen should have two foreign languages at her disposal.
Another great example of grassroots in the education system was Marie-Hélène Fasquel who presented how she is teaching English hands on with her students using social media and new technologies on the Internet.
All in all we had some pretty passionate discussions going on and the event could have been much longer as we only hit the tip of the iceberg. I am pretty sure this won’t be the last time we met in Paris to discuss this hot topic.
The team at Agence Clé did a great job with hosting the event and putting together such a diverse group of people so that I am already looking forward to the next one. Below you find a playlist of the different presentations and pitches, in French of course.