The Differences of School Subjects in France Versus the U.S.

The Differences of School Subjects in France Versus the U.S.

by Ella Russell, Greenheart Travel high school student in France

I started school last week at around 2:00 pm, the latest it has ever been. My English teacher was sick, and the only other class was Geography (which started just last Wednesday for the beginning of the third trimester), and then Politics with the same teacher. I only had three hours of school!

I was put in the premier year here in France (basically the equivalent of 11th grade), which is when you have to decide which group of classes you wish to take. The three main class groups are S (science), ES (Economics and Society), and L (Literature). I was put in the L group, so my classes are based around literature, with the strongest focus on Literature and the weakest focus on Science, and it is the opposite for science, with ES in the middle.

As for languages, English is required, and for literature at least, Spanish seems to be required as well, but you can also choose an additional language.

My subjects are Literature, History/Geography, Politics, English literature, more general English, Science (only for one day with alternating subjects each week), Spanish, and finally EPS (P.E).

Textbooks here are so light, only having around 300 to 400 pages, a large contrast to the ones in America

Some classes in particular were fairly different from the corresponding courses in America.

For the foreign language courses, a lot more focus was on comprehension and speaking than on grammar, and the textbooks are almost never looked at. English was not so surprising, as my classmates had been taking it since “elementary school.” The teacher spoke almost entirely in English. However, in Spanish, which was the fourth or fifth year, while there is more study of grammar, like English class, a lot of the time is spent analyzing documents and learning new vocabulary by the teacher dictating a lesson.

In the first science class that I went to, the topic is ‘feeding humanity,’ so we have talked about selective breeding and other ways to improve crop yield. The second class is more varied. Among other things, we learned about emulsions, food conservation, and different forms of energy.

Monday was my second Geography class, which in itself is a rarity in the U.S. It replaced History, starting on Wednesday the week before, the first week of the third trimester. We studied threats to the environment in France, and the need for sustainable development, focusing in particular on the gulf of Morbihan, to the northwest of France.

And speaking of which, it seems that people in France are a lot more careful about not being wasteful than in the U.S. Almost always, lights are turned off when everyone leaves a room, and on the rare occasions when people (like me) forget, it’s a serious affair. Also, on Monday evening, we were having a pomegranate, and I suggested putting it underwater, which makes the process of cleaning it easier and much less messy. However, they didn’t think it was a good idea, as it was a waste of water.

students in france

On Thursday, there was a student protest! Apparently, it was because a few weeks earlier, there was a law passed to help unemployment, which among other things, lengthened the work hours. The area in front of the gate leading into the school was packed with students and trashcans to further block the way in.

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