Saturday, 9 September 2017

Back to school

That's it, the kids are back to school, which means I'm also back making lunch boxes and supervising homework. All of this made me think about the differences between French and Irish schools. I'm not talking about the big ones like lunches or school hours because I already expressed my frustration about it, but the more subtle ones, the ones that made me think "When I was a kid in France, this was  different!"

School bags

If you're French, you'll know what I'm talking about. I took the "compulsory" back to school picture last week, and a French friend commented, pointing out that their school bags must have been bought in another country. And she was right, we bought them in France. You see, over there, most school bags are square, with a buckle closure. Few kids have bag packs in primary school (although when I looked at French friends back to school own pictures, the kids all had bag packs, so go figure!). Anyway, it reminded of my school years, and I just find those school bags are a lot more practical. My kids might be on the way to set up a new trend!

My 2 kids French school bags

Writing style

When we went to France this summer, my mum got worried and asked me if I noticed that my kids were writing in script. The thing is, this is how they learned how to write, but she wasn't convinced. "So they don't learn the proper way then?" Yes, they do, it's just a different style! In France, kids learn cursive straight away, but here they start with script. My son will learn cursive handwriting this year only, and he's in third class. As much as cursive handwriting looks "prettier", writing in script is a lot easier!

An old birthday letter I wrote to my mum, I was probably around 9...

I never really thought about the reason why copies are different in France and Ireland, but now that I realised the writing style is different, it makes a lot more sense. In France you have more lines, probably because everything is written in cursive, but you don't need that many lines if you're writing in script, so yeah, it makes sense now. Still, I was very surprised the first time I bought a copybook!!

French copy
Irish copy


The advantage of being in a French primary school is that you don't have to buy books. Here, things are a lot different. Kids almost exclusively use workbooks that have to be bought every year. I almost passed out when my eldest started Junior Infants and I discovered the amount of books I had to buy... School might be free but back to school is expensive!! Having said that, most schools now offer a rental scheme to minimise the cost.

That was only half the books by the way!


No uniforms when I was a kid! I remember going to the UK on a student exchange trip when I was a teenager and be puzzled by the school uniforms. Fast forward 20 years, and I just love it. You don't have to think about what the kids are going to wear in the morning, which also means not too many clothes to buy either! A lot of people I know also told me they think there is less competition between the kids, and less pressure to look a certain way. I'm not entirely sure about that because, even if it's a good start, kids will always find a way to "undermine" another peer because of his hair colour, his weight, his glasses or his school bag...

One thing for sure, my kids are having a completely different experience than I had as a child in a French primary school. I still think the Irish system is adapted to kids rather than parents (but that's what's important, right?) and I can't speak for every primary school in the country, but my kids' schools are very supportive and all the teachers I came across were very involved in my boys' education and progress.

As and expat, how do you find school in your host country compared to your home country?