If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through

Stephen Fry thinks the French are a better-educated race than the British.

First of all, the French are not a race. Neither are the British. It never ceases to amaze me how much Lefties love that word. But never mind.

Unless I’m very much mistaken, Stephen Fry knows next to nothing about the French education system. He was educated in England and has no child currently at school in France. He’s only basing his remarks on one study, which is hazardous at best – but knowing nothing about a topic has never stopped Stephen from inflicting his opinion on us in the past, so why should he start now?

He may have a point about French primary schoolchildren knowing more than their British counterparts, but what he’s missing is that this state of affairs is all due to relentless rote learning, one-size-fits-all teaching methods and much stricter discipline than in British schools. Sadly, it appears nothing has changed since I was at school.

A French primary school, today.
A French primary school, today

He says

“A lot of it is at the right age, somehow getting that gear, that cog fitting that excites a child, that makes them feel pleased with themselves for achieving and for knowing.”

Yes, that would be nice but that’s not the way they go about it in France. I don’t remember feeling pleased with myself for “achieving and knowing”, but for not getting detention at school and a bollocking at home if I got a bad mark. French kids have no interest in learning anything that isn’t marked by the teacher, because it’s worth nothing to them and is a waste of brainpower.

He’s also not realising that all this knowledge is acquired at the expense of creativity and self-expression. No one cares what pupils think or what they are capable of creating. They’re at school to fill their heads with other people’s thoughts then regurgitate them at exam time, and that’s it. It’s the same at primary school, secondary school and even higher education level.

If Fry had gone through the French education system himself, he could never have learned to act by joining the Footlights at university as there would have been no Footlights to join. In order to write his novels, he would have had to learn writing techniques on his own, as an adult, as there would have been no Creative Writing classes to attend. And so on and so forth.

Of course, there is no University Challenge in France either. As if.
Of course, there is no University Challenge in France either. As if.

Yes, the French education system produces people with a good smattering of general knowledge, but it doesn’t produce good all-rounders. Anything physical is neglected at best and despised at worst and woe betide the pupil who has different learning needs, as streaming is banned in the name of equality. As I said earlier, one size fits all and if it doesn’t fit you, you are made to feel a failure.

Since Stephen has spoken at length about how much of a gifted outcast he was at his English public school, I wonder how he would have fared in the strict French system where individuals matter even less. Not too well, I suspect.

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