New Caledonia, as I have already told you, is technically France. The official term is “special collectivity’ (I guess colony is no longer acceptable?) So, because it is France, the school system is French, and follows the same curriculum and structure. Wednesday is a day of either no school or only until 11am. For some reason, I knew this about France before moving here. So, every Wednesday Seth’s routine is interrupted. I was curious as to why and, given many explanations; teacher meetings, traditionally time to do sports, music lessons, a break in the week for young children. As it turns out these are all true but the original reason was catechism. France, originally mostly Catholic gave the children the day to devote to church teachings. As French society became more secular and diverse then the day became what it is today. Schools offer périscolaire which is school based activities, it’s run by the school association. There are sports offered in the afternoons in the community as well as music and dance. It’s seen as totally normal to have this break mid week. Seth is at an age where he just naps and plays with his toys. The long 7:45-3:30 school days the rest of the week leave little time for just playing. I often wonder what working parents do on Wednesday afternoons? As it turns out many grandparents seem to help out on those days and there are now activities at the school.
As I read about reports of not enough school days and how we need to go to school more I wonder if this is true? The school year here is short. It starts mid February and run 7-8 weeks then there is a 2 week break(April) then 7-8 weeks, a 2 week break (June) 7-8 weeks, a 2 week break (August) 7-8 weeks, a 2 week break (October) and then the final stretch to December, around the 15th. They follow a similar school year in Australia & New Zealand. There is no school every Wednesday afternoon for students and any meetings, professional development take place on Wednesday afternoons. It’s an interesting way to do things.
In November 2013 it was announced that in France métropole (France proper) they were doing away with Wednesday afternoons. It sparked outrage and protest by parents! Parents lined the streets by the thousands along with outraged teachers. The government promised to shorten the school day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday’s by 45 mins and allow children to remain at school until 4:30pm in order for parents to not require any extra childcare. So, in reality no real increase in school hours. In September 2014 ( the beginning of the school year in Métropole) mayors, teachers and parents defied the government and remained closed on Wednesday afternoons. All this was planned as France was slumping on test scores internationally. Sound familiar? As it turns out France sits somewhere in the middle in classroom hours. Behind the United States and Canada but ahead of Finland, South Korea and Japan. In France the decision did not change and it is for seen that eventually it will trickle down the the French Pacific and the rest of its territories around the world.
So, today after two weeks of school vacation that ended Friday and 2 full school days there is no school at all. Report cards are next week so teachers need the day to prepare and to prep for the new term. As a former teacher I kind of envy them. I better run, my day has started and Seth is home.