Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Choosing a French Lycee (High School) for Your Child

Choosing a French Lycee (High School)
for Your Child

Living in France

Dec 22, 2007

France is well endowed with a very good educational system. So, if you are planning on moving to France or sending your child to a French boarding school I strongly suggest looking into it before moving, or as soon as you arrive.

I've always been a determined advocate of an enriching and varied curriculum throughout my child's life. That has not changed now that she is a teenager or now that we live in France. I still believe in being very involved in her daily educational on-goings and aware of all aspects of the educational needs and accessibility.

When we first moved to France, Sophie and I looked into a well-respected international school in Sophia Antopolis called Centre International de Valbonne. She was quite pleased with the teachers and what was available educationally. However, the school was scientifically based rather than more inclined toward the arts which didn't seem like a good fit for her.

Sophie's old school was an art school. It is considered the top fine arts boarding school in the US. It offers an abundance of art classes in just about any field imaginable as well as some of the finest college preparatory classes any school might offer. Her new school was more inclined toward the sciences. She had a hard time finding friends she might grow really close with, as she had at her previous school. That being said, she had a fine circle of friends, just not as close knit as she had previously experienced and was longing to find again. I suggested it was because the setting was different. She was an artist and wasn't likely to find her 'type' outside of her realm but that she had plenty of friends and I saw no problem as she was getting on well in school and had enjoyed her classes so much.

A couple times, I suggested we look into art schools in France. Sophie was very reserved toward the idea of changing schools as she felt the education she was receiving was quite good and the school had a fine reputation. She did not want to transfer to another school which might not be as rigorous or who's students might not fair as well on the Bac or SATs.

In the end, we decided to look at other school. The criteria were simple but decisive and we were unflinching in our requirements. We wanted a school with a safe track record (no to very low crime equaling less than 8 incidents annually), we wanted a 100% Bac pass rate, we wanted a strong art, theatre, art history or cinema option and we wanted the city to be on we'd want to live in for up to three years.

After a thorough and rigorous search we found four lycees that met all of our requirements. We narrowed it down to two schools on opposite sides of the country. I wanted to move to Normandy and Sophie wanted to move to Strasbourg. Normandy is supposed to have a large English speaking population and I am under the impression the architecture is quite different from that we might find in the South of France, where we were moving from.

Sophie doesn't mind cold winters, so that did not detour her from finding Strasbourg a viable option, plus she loved the city, or what she had seen of it on Google Images and she firmly believed the school was very academically inclined not to mention the fact that it offered both an art history section as well as a theatre section.

I was not moved. I do not like the cold and, quite honestly, I found the thought of living in an area with a large English population fair more attractive than living in a town heavily influenced by a rigidness often associated with Germans.

It was time to make a choice. I wanted to make the right choice based on all the facts and information rather than a passionate plea formed by one's desires - has that been the case I would have moved to Normandy only to visit Sophie on Holidays in Strasbourg.

I sat down and wrote out a 'Pros and Cons' list. Much to my dismay, by my own notes on both towns and schools taking into consideration every possible aspect of life that might come into play Strasbourg won hands down. No matter how I tried to come up with an equal amount of positives for Normandy I couldn't even come close.

I did not tell Sophie of my findings, initially, Instead, I suggested we go out to one of our favorite little cafes to take the time to write out a 'Pros and Cons' list just to see what we come up with. She was okay with going to the sweet little cafe but rather inclined to believe the list would prove completely futile as she new I had no desire to move to Strasbourg and had pretty much resigned herself to that fact. Nonetheless, she knew I wouldn't take no for an answer so we went through the steps anyway. Once we had finished the list and there were at least two or three times as many pros for Strasbourg she still wasn't impressed. I think she was waiting for the other shoe to fall off. I said, 'Look Honey. Look at the list. What does it say to you?" She looked at the list. She looked at me. I couldn't help but give a little smile at which point she began to get a little glimmer of realization in her eye and I told her, "Je t'aime (I love you). We're moving to Strasbourg." and I have her a big smile only to be surpassed by the radiant glow of happiness on her face.

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