French President François Hollande Promises to Ban Homework as Part of Educational Initiatives

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French President Francois Hollande at the Élysée Palace, in Paris, on Oct. 10, 2012

If he manages to push his latest proposals through, French President François Hollande may find himself with a few more young supporters on his side.

Last week, Hollande reaffirmed his pledge to make education one of his main domestic priorities by outlining key strategic changes to revitalize France’s school system. It’s a sweeping package of changes meant to reform a system critics claim is outdated and inefficient, but for headline writers it boils down to one concept: the French President wants to outlaw homework. “Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” Hollande emphasized on Wednesday.

(MORE: French President Hollande Embarks on His Own Mission Impossible)

He also proposes reducing the average amount of time a student spends in class in each day, while stretching the school week from four days to four and a half. It’s a bid to bring the country more in line with international standards and to acknowledge some of the current system’s shortcomings. Even the homework isn’t just an empty populist gesture — it’s meant to reflect the fact that many of the lowest-performing students lack a positive support environment at home.

According to the Associated Press, French students endure some of the longest school days within developed nations:

Despite long summer breaks and the four-day school week, French elementary school students actually spend more hours per year in school than average – 847, compared with 774 among countries in OECD, a club of wealthy nations. But the time is compressed into fewer days each year. The French school day begins around 8:30 [a.m.] and ends at 4:30 p.m., even for the youngest, despite studies showing the ability of young children to learn deteriorates as the day goes on.

However, Hollande’s proposal faces a few challenges of its own: parents would have to learn how to adjust to the new school schedule and how best to care for their child during their suddenly free afternoons. Extracurricular activities would potentially fill a gap, but would increase pressure on already strained educational and state budgets.

(MORE: France Needs $43 Billion to Meet Debt Targets — but Rejects Austérité)

“It’s completely unrealistic,” Valérie Marty, the president of France’s national parents’ organization, told the Associated Press. “They have to figure out who will take care of the children after school, who will finance it.”

Some of Hollande’s other suggestions: shortening students’ summer vacation, increasing the number of teachers by as many as 60,000 and targeting disadvantaged areas to bolster France’s school system. Given the additional pressure the President faces in reforming the domestic budget, it’s a tough act to pull off.

Hollande, who is currently in his first term after succeeding Nicolas Sarkozy in May, had vowed to make education a cornerstone of his presidency.

Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

11 comments
AndrewSantarini
AndrewSantarini

I support this. Grades should be based on test results. There are many of students who get A's and B's on tesrs/classwork but get F's D'or C's in class merely because they do not do the homework (for reasons listed above).

Keep in mind this does not illegalize independent studying, which can teach independence and responsibility on behalf of the student. This just illegalizes homework which is basically just graded studying when you think about it. Teachers can still suggest material to read up on. Results are all that should matter in education.

All arguments against this in the comments seem to be generic "eww socialism" which, yes, I admit the reasoning has a leftist root (which as a socialist myself I don't mind), but cant you make the argument again that this promotes personnel responsibilty (a trait capitalist proponents like to claim is theirs)?

pma950
pma950

Article quote —it's meant to reflect the fact that many of the lowest-performing students lack a positive support environment at home.

So, lower the bar then, ensure everyone lacks a positive support environment at home and ban homework - cor blimey Hollande, you are a fool without equal - I presume we will next ban sports practice, and while we're on teh equality theme. let's ban all competitive activities entirely!!

Life has taught me, when I know little on an subject to shut up, he's not learnt this lesson at all (but then he is a politician after all). This fellow certainly does a convincing imitation of a damn fool! Attaboy Hollande!!!

AndrewSantarini
AndrewSantarini

@pma950 quote-So lower the bar then, ensure everyone lacks a positive support environment at home and ban homework.

Wait how would banning homework make it so EVERYONE has an unstable home environment?

Captain Commander
Captain Commander

It is said that to gain true expertise in a subject, one must devote 10,000 hours of practice to said subject.

That's the point of homework...it makes the students devote more time and practice to master their subjects. Hollande is an moron if he thinks he's somehow aiding education by banning homework.

AndrewSantarini
AndrewSantarini

@Captain Commander Does this illegalize independent studying or parents still making their child study?

Obama Hates America
Obama Hates America like.author.displayName 1 Like

Socialism/ progressivism always results in the Lowest-Common-Denominator lifestyle. You can only be as successful as the LCD. You can only be as smart as the LCD. You can only earn the same grade as the LCD in your class. Socialism defies Nature. It is evil.

AndrewSantarini
AndrewSantarini

@Obama Hates America Do you actually have an argument against this proposal? "Socialism is evil" im pretty sure doesn't count due to firstly you not linking to why this is socialism and secondly why even if this was socialism what makes this specific "socialist" law bad.

Danyz
Danyz like.author.displayName 1 Like

Maybe he should ban roll on...

Skipdallas
Skipdallas

France better watch out or they just might catch up with the USA in the number of uneducated idiots graduating from High school every year.

AndrewSantarini
AndrewSantarini

@Skipdallas where does it say graduating requirements will go down? It even says if they implement this they would shorten vacation time and lenghen school week. Keep in mind that france (as mentioned in the article) has some of the longest school days.

Heterotic
Heterotic

Another country dummying down to make the least capable feel better about themselves as they fail. China applauds all such initiatives.