Parents in France are incensed over the government’s plans to make children attend school on Wednesdays.
French children have enjoyed a mid-week day off for years, according to a Los Angeles Times article published on Nov. 6. But now the government, citing sliding student test scores and mounting pressure to match the number of instructional hours in other developed nations, are changing course by making Wednesday a school day.
Roughly a quarter of the country’s primary schools have made the switch to a five-day school week. The remaining schools are set to make the calendar change next year.
Historically, the government permitted schoolchildren to take a day off of school to attend catechism by the Roman Catholic Church, explains Times reporter Henry Chu. While many schools held classes on Saturdays, in 2008 the government determined that a four-day school week was adequate.
France’s current government, led by President François Hollande, believes lengthening the school week and shortening the school day will help boost student achievement. According to the article, almost 40 percent of French students have to repeat a grade by the time they turn 15—that’s triple the average rate of most industrialized countries.
But French parents, who have grown accustomed to shorter workweeks and longer summer vacations than their counterparts around the world, are organizing petitions and pleading for the government to reverse course.
“We weren’t asked for our opinion. This was imposed upon us,” Isabelle Nizard told the Times. “They changed the course of our life without asking us for our opinion!”
Now parents are threatening to keep their children home from school on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in protest, according to the Times. And unions representing teachers and other school staff are calling for a national strike on Nov. 14. Valérie Marty, the president of France’s largest parent organization, told the newspaper that while the government may have been well intentioned, it acted too quickly and without securing the support of parents and teachers.
American parents might find this so-called “boiling-hot” calendar fight unusual. Budget cuts and teacher union contract battles can shorten students’ instructional hours to the dismay of parents here. But let’s not forget how the slightest adjustment to the school calendar can send parents off the deep end—no matter what side of the ocean.
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.