I would like to talk to you today about something that is unique to the French system of education, something that is so intrinsic to our way of teaching that we forget to mention it, the freedom of our teachers when it comes to their teaching and learning methods – their pedagogical freedom (la liberté pédagogique des enseignants).
This freedom, which is inscribed in French laws, is not a carte blanche allowing every teacher to do as he or she pleases! It does have certain restrictions; teachers must follow the French curriculum, adapt to local situations and follow the advice of their heads, but that said their freedom is real and every teacher has the right – the duty even – to bring their own way of thinking to what they teach in class, and to approach the objectives established by the curriculum in a manner they think is the most pertinent.
In a school like ours, teachers’ pedagogical freedom can be a challenge, but it also represents an enormous opportunity. A challenge, for example, when one teacher’s methods vary largely from another’s, which can have a destabilising effect on students (not to mention on their parents!).
But this pedagogical freedom, which is incarnated at TES on a daily basis in the difference between the ways the teachers from each Section dress, is above all an opportunity for our students. They come across and work with a myriad of different methods during their schooling with us, all of which open up their minds and awaken their curiosity. In one class they might use lots of I.T., in another, none at all, or all learning might be project-based with one teacher, whereas another might prefer to break everything
down into separate subjects, sometimes they use notebooks, sometimes binders, flipped classrooms may or may not be de rigueur, homework times vary, and the number of tests differ.
If there is such a thing as good teaching practices, by default there must be bad ones too, but there is no magic recipe for teaching or one method that is sure to work on every child out there. By encouraging teachers to constantly question their way of doing things, by inviting them to add intuition, passion and conviction to their teaching, the French education system aims to reap the full benefit of its teachers’ best qualities – which is exactly what we do in the French Section.
Our teaching team brings together the talents of 12 different nationalities, teachers who have lived all over the world and have had diverse, enriching experiences that they use today to the benefit of our students. Every single one of them contributes immensely to our collective reflections and considerations – we need of course to ensure that no incoherences lie behind individual teachers’
pedagogical freedom that come into conflict with others. I think we do pedagogical freedom well at the French Section; the regular and desirable differences that we come across in each class have never put a spanner in the works of our very efficient team. It is in fact, quite the opposite; our teachers and students
thrive when they witness different pedagogical practices in action – it leads them to enrich their own. The teaching and learning differences do not undermine our common desire to make this school the very best – in fact they strengthen it and are a crucial cornerstone.
As head of this school, I get a kick every day of the week, to see our unique teachers from so many different backgrounds, with so many individual qualities, working together for the benefit of our team. I would like to thank them here for all of the work they have accomplished in this first part of the year – it’s time now to recharge the batteries!