Lessons from the French education system

The expansion of the Direct School Admission scheme to all secondary schools in Singapore has had me thinking about my own experiences as a French citizen in my country's educational programme (Education focus shifts to students' strengths; March 8).

The French system is more focused on longer-term academic performance.

While there are major year-end exams, they do not form the sole selection criteria for entering secondary schools or junior colleges.

Instead, schools look at the student's grades over the previous two or three years to assess their suitability.

One of the main benefits of the French system is that it allows one to distinguish between students who are "exam smart" and those who are academically bright.

Another benefit is that it facilitates the grouping of students of roughly the same academic level and who learn at a similar pace. This allows for more bonding among students.

It is important that we protect both types of student: The bright students who are not necessarily exam smart, and the exam-smart students who may not be as academically capable as their results suggest.

It is important that we protect both types of student: The bright students who are not necessarily exam smart, and the exam-smart students who may not be as academically capable as their results suggest.

Both, ultimately, are worse off under a system that over-emphasises final exams - the bright ones may miss the opportunity to go to a prestigious school, while those who succeed through cramming may struggle to keep up with the quicker pace of learning and denser curriculum in that school.

For any education system to be fair, schools should ensure that the students they select have the appropriate aptitude to succeed.

Olivier Darrieux

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2017, with the headline 'Lessons from the French education system'. Print Edition | Subscribe