Hollande’s reform plans include increasing the number of teachers, moving the school week from four days to 4 1/2 days, overhauling the curriculum and taking steps to cut down on absenteeism.
“Education is priority,” Hollande was quoted as saying by France24.com at Paris’s Sorbonne University last week. “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” as a way to ensure that students who have no help at home are not disadvantaged.
Despite the four-day school week, elementary school children in France spend more hours a year in school than many other developed countries because students are there all day, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m., with some kids staying even later.
It’s not clear where the money to hire thousands more teachers will come from, but, the Associated Press reported, Education Minister Vincent Peillon will have to figure out how to implement the reforms. One option is to shorten summer vacation, though, such a move isn’t likely to be popular because it is practically sacrosanct in France.
Whether Hollande really gets all of this done is open to question. But his homework position is not original; some school districts in the United States did the same thing going back more than a century. Early in the 1900s, the influential Ladies’ Home Journal magazine called homework “barbarous,” and school districts such as Los Angeles abolished it in kindergarten through eighth grade. In fact, some educators said it caused tuberculosis, nervous conditions and heart disease in the young and that children were better off playing outside. The American Child Health Association in the 1930s labeled homework and child labor as leading killers of children who contracted tuberculosis and heart disease.
Today people who oppose homework have different objections, among them, the research that suggests it doesn’t really help young children learn.