France: few additional duties but many miles from home

10th June 2005 at 01:00
Frederique Rolet teaches classics - French, Latin and Greek - to pupils aged 12 to 15 at the College Lavoisier, a lower-secondary in Lille, northern France.

She works a minimum 40-hour week. Her duties revolve around teaching and do not include supervision of pupils outside the classroom. She has passed the agregation, an advanced teaching diploma, so Ms Rolet is contracted to do 15 hours' classroom teaching, compared with 18 hours for the certifies, less highly qualified teachers. The rest of her week is used for tasks such as lesson preparation, marking and meetings.

"Teachers are trained to act as intermediaries if a pupil needs help, but in general we teachers are very attached to our role of imparting knowledge, getting the subject across to pupils," she says. "If we wanted other responsibilities, we would follow another profession."

But there are downsides to the centralised French system in which teachers are appointed to centrally allocated posts according to a scale of seniority that is based on criteria including length of service and family responsibilities.

Newly qualified teachers can face "exile" away from home until they have enough points for a transfer back to their home region, usually after five years. After qualifying, Ms Rolet was appointed to a school 65 kilometres away from her home in Lille. "I stayed several years but with three children the distance made it difficult, so I asked for a change," she says.

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