In the Paris Academy, more bilingual public schools to attract students

Sitting on a carpet in their classroom with the curtains drawn on this hot June day, about twenty pupils from the Poulletier Kindergarten, located in the 4e arrondissement of Paris, on the Ile Saint-Louis, listen to “Rocket Man”. Elton John’s song evokes an astronaut going on a mission. She concludes a 45-minute English session devoted to astronomy, led by the teacher Clelia Daniel and the American assistant Celia Marie Petersen, who are present in the school four days a week.

The Poulletier School is the first of 20 bilingual public schools in Paris (out of 750) to launch the system in 2018. The academy will increase this number to 32 at the start of the school year, in order to “respond to the demographic decline”. “The dream, according to the headmaster, Christophe Kerrero, would be for all schools to follow this model. »

The academy wants it to gradually affect all districts, including priority education. Learning English can appeal to families turning to the private sector or finding bilingual education elsewhere than in the capital.

The language approach is intended to be playful. In Poulletier, in late June, preschoolers learn to recognize the planets, play cards in small groups around the same theme, watch a cartoon in English, then listen to the American assistant mimicking the “Cat and Mouse” story. two astronauts flying into space…

Six hours a week exposure to English

“They have a very developed vocabulary and understand them very well,” explains the teacher, Clelia Daniel. Even if they don’t know all the words they throw in there is no inhibition. »

These bilingual schools allow speaking English ‘for 6 hours a week’, the academy states, which was inspired by the Jeannine Manuel school, a very attractive bilingual private secular institution. The academy is also experimenting with the establishment, which has made its audiovisual teaching method English available to a cohort of students.

At the entrance of the Bernard Buffet School (17th Paris), the decorations for the Queen’s Jubilee Party.Marie-Christine Corbier

English innervates school and extracurricular time. English-speaking assistants intervene in the lessons, in the canteen or during the extracurricular workshops. “It’s about being open to sounds and making sure that young French people are no longer held back from speaking another language,” explains Bérénice Delpal, director of school affairs for the City of Paris. “They learn very quickly, they are sponges,” welcomes Florence Lepage, urban education manager of the Poulletier school, describing a school that is fully committed to a project.

“Last February, a teacher, two Atsem, three chaperones, the city education manager and the school janitor left to train together in Ireland as part of the Erasmus+ programme,” welcomes director Eric Denis. Joint training between teachers and supervisors is “the crux of the project”, emphasizes Valérie Thibault, inspector in charge of the modern foreign languages ​​file.

“We speak French, we switch to English and it can happen at any time of the day, testifies Sabine Valette, director of the bilingual public school Saint-Benoît in the 6e Township. It’s music. »

“Language pool”

“Nicky, you’re not running!” says Frédérique Semmar-Taupin to one of her students who is returning from recess. In his CP class at the Bernard Buffet school in the 17e district, students have benefited from the “language immersion” since kindergarten. At the end of June, they put their additions on the board, explain their approach in English, rehearse their play in English and meet their American assistant, Sarah Young, who spends two hours a week in this class.

“I try to make sure the atmosphere is relaxed and the learning is fun,” she says. That day Sarah tells about the “quarter”, this 25 cent coin on which the students discover different effigies corresponding to the 50 American states. Trade slides on George Washington, the Statue of Liberty, and Georgia peach production.

“We do better than some bilingual private schools”

“I love peaches! says one of the students. “She was almost mute at the beginning of the year, she has an excellent accent now,” Frédérique Semmar-Taupin rejoices. For students with difficulties, practicing English “puts them on the same level as others and gives them confidence in learning French,” she says. His school welcomes 10% of very precarious families, sometimes non-French speakers.

A student puts his additions on the board and explains his approach in English.

A student puts his additions on the board and explains his approach in English.Marie-Christine Corbier

The aim of the rectorate is to achieve 12 hours of teaching in French and 12 hours in English within a few years, we hear in the masters’ room. “We are doing better than some private bilingual schools, but we have to let people know,” said a school principal. For this new school year, the Rectorate has doubled the number of teachers recruited by profile, from 40 to 80. The opportunity for Valérie Thibault to “feed the pool of trainers, increasingly important as we increase the number of bilingual schools ”.

Requests for exemptions are increasing

The device is starting to become known and the requests for waivers are increasing. “We are the school in the area that offers everyone the opportunity to learn English, not an elite school,” emphasizes Eric Denis. Poulletier welcomes families in very precarious situations. However, other schools are preparing to welcome children returning from abroad or from bilingual parents. “These are interesting profiles that will stimulate a bilingual dynamic among their comrades,” said Christophe Droal, director of the Bernard Buffet School.

The rectorate is now investigating the link with the college, while the first students who have benefited from the system will enter CE2 at the beginning of the school year. “The worst thing would be that, for these students, upon entering 6e, the English teacher is doing as usual and feels that nothing has been done yet,” the rector warns. “It is the social mix that is at stake, we have to attract the middle class to the sector colleges,” adds Antoine Destrés, director of the academy.

What should limit the flight of families to the private sector? “The problem is the fear of Affelnet and the assignment to university and high school, which makes parents leave public education out of the large part,” says a good expert on the subject. And sometimes the fact that they have raised their child in a bilingual school makes them even more accepted there. »

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