Jobs for the good boys...

26th September 2003 at 01:00
... and girls. In England, only nice pupils wipe the board, while in France all do their bit. Karen Thornton on insights into two nations'

psyches at last week's research gathering in Hamburg

Primary teachers in England treat classroom chores as a reward for good pupils - but in France, they are considered a duty for all.

Different national attitudes to handing out jobs such as wiping the blackboard reflect different views of citizenship, Maroussia Raveaud, of Bristol university, told last week's European Conference on Educational Research in Hamburg.

Dr Raveaud spent two weeks in each of 12 English and French primary schools observing how they transmitted ideas about citizenship - such as what it means to be a member of a group - through everyday classroom routines. The children were aged four to seven.

Jobs that teachers delegated to their pupils included watering the plants, handing out books, tidying away schoolbags, collecting cups for breaktime drinks, and leading the line to assembly or the playground.

In English classrooms, taking the register to the office was seen as a great honour by children, and as a job that was earned - for sitting nicely or behaving well. However English teachers were not aware they were allocating jobs by merit, and would say they tried to share them out.

But in most French schools, the job was allocated on a rota, and was a right or duty.

French teachers linked practical jobs to learning - for example, counting the number of cups needed for breaktime drinks. They also insisted that other children had to co-operate with volunteer classroom assistants, because the helpers "had a job to do".

Dr Raveaud noted that England's national curriculum goes beyond citizenship activity and aims to support pupils' wider spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. "It's as if (in England) being a good citizen is not separate from the qualities expected of a good person, a good husband or wife or colleague at work."

Meanwhile a second citizenship study suggests older pupils in both Scotland and France agree that learning can help them to be good citizens.

However, Harry Blee and Alan McClosky of Glasgow university, also show expectations of the part they should play in school and community life are quite different in the two nations.

For example, a majority of the 588 Scottish pupils questioned believed they should have a say in selecting teachers and in what they are taught. French pupils wanted much less of a say, being divided on the former question and opposed to the latter.

The researchers also found diffferent experiences in activities relevant to citizenship.

For example, the 107 French pupils were more likely to have made a presentation, spoken at assembly, voted for a representative, stood for election or carried out an investigation.

Scots were more likely to have raised cash for charity, learned about laws and different methods of participation, and about how to process information for bias.

"Participation as a right or reward", by Maroussia Raveaud, Bristol university. "Perspectives on the provision of education for citizenship" in Scotland and France, by Harry Blee and Alan McClosky, Glasgow university

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