French Language Blog

French Back-to-School: La Rentrée (de réformes) Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

Uh-oh — it’s already la rentrée! As the end of August approaches, students are getting ready to head back to school, people are returning back from vacation, and workers are heading back to work. In French, there’s an important word for all of this: la rentrée. Literally meaning “the return,” la rentrée refers to the period of time after August (normally the month is taken as a vacation for many in France) when the French return to school and work.

This rentrée is different than others that came before, however. Starting this year, new reforms in the French education system will take place. An article in Le Monde, titled “Programmes, vacances avancées, évaluations… ce qui va changer à la rentrée scolaire” describes all the changes that will take place for this rentrée scolaire (de réformes), from new programs, to a change in the vacation calendar, to a difference in how students are evaluated. Let’s take a look at the article (you can check out the full text here)!

The first big change in the French education system this year is that there will be “moins de pression en grande section de maternelle (less pressure in kindergarten).” La grande section de maternelle is the term for kindergarten, while la petite section and la moyenne section are first and second years in nursery school, respectively. In France, public education begins at age three with la petite section de maternelle. The goal here is to focus less on rote knowledge and memorization and more on basic understanding, socialization, and play. From the article:”Plutôt que d’apprendre aux élèves à compter très loin, on s’assurera d’abord qu’ils comprennent bien le sens des nombres… (Instead of teaching students to count to large numbers, we will first ensure that they understand the meaning (or sense) behind numbers).”

Another changement is the introduction of an hour of “secular morality” in elementary school. This may sound strange if you are not familiar with French culture, but the French government is based on the ideal of laïcité, or secularism, where the state and religion do not mix at all. According to the article: “La « morale laïque »… sera enseignée une heure par semaine à l’école élémentaire, et deux heures par mois dans le secondaire. Cet enseignement, qui doit promouvoir les valeurs de la République, s’inscrit dans un « parcours citoyen » décidé après les attentats de janvier à Paris, qui comprend aussi une éducation aux médias” (Secular morality (or ethics) will be taught for one hour each week in elementary school, and for two hours each month in junior and high school. This education, which should promote the values of the French Republic, is inscribed in the “Citizens Guide”, which was decided (created) after the January terrorist attacks in Paris and which also includes an education in media studies).

There are several other reforms as well, including a mandatory 90 minute lunch break in schools and the changing of Spring vacation dates. An interesting debate is going on now as well about the efficacy of the French grading system, and even whether or not grades (les notes) should be done away with all together! Á suivre, et bonne rentrée!



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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!