When we welcome an inspector from the AEFE (agency of French Schools abroad) to our school for a visit, as we did this week, we do our utmost to make a good impression. As it was Ms Matossi’sfirst visit to our school (she took up the position as inspector for Asia in September) we wanted to make a good first impression.

It wasn’t exactly a coincidence that the timing of the ‘Philomenal: Time’ exhibition at EPC coincided with her visit; the ‘Philomenal’ project is a perfect example of what we do best. It is an ambitious project for our students, it requires close teamwork from our teachers, who have to brainstorm, consider, prepare and display the project together, it involves students from primary and secondary working side-by-side and presenting their work to each other. It would be difficult for any head to think of a better project to represent all that is great about his or her school.

It was an impressive exhibition, in terms of the diversity and of the intelligence of the works presented. I was particularly interested in the philosophical thought behind the display of Theseus’ boat. In summary, what happens is this: Theseus returns to Athens a hero, having killed the Minotaur. His boat is preserved at the port, but time takes it toll and as pieces of it wear out, they are replaced with new ones, until not a single piece of the original boat remains. The question is then: is it still
Theseus’ boat?

The CM2 classes’ presentation about Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris asked similar questions. Destroyed and restored time and again, with last month’s terrible fire causing us to wonder once again, if it is rebuilt, with different materials by contemporary architects without the original methods of construction, will Notre Dame still be Notre Dame? A possible answer is that Notre Dame, like Theseus’ boat, is a symbol that a nation and a people base their identity upon. It is a symbol of who we are and what we have achieved It is a symbol that unites us and belongs to our collective memory.

The inspector who came to see us this week has visited many French schools throughout the world during her career. Each school is different, their buildings look nothing alike and yet they are all French schools, whatever the structure. They too are a bit like Theseus’ boat: French schools that have been reconstructed, brick by brick elsewhere, with different materials, but which represent the same immediately recognisable values. The French Section is no different: the inspector found the teaching and learning here to be perfectly in keeping with the expectations of the French Ministry of Education, she also discovered a team of motivated and talented teachers (in both the French and English classrooms.)
And that extra spark – the measure that allows a project like the Philomenal one to exist – is ours and ours alone.

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