The International Center of Pedagogic Studies visits Florida schools
Mr. Roux, you are responsible for the section Expertise and Projets in the Department of Langue Française at the International Center of Pedagogic Studies (CIEP). Could you explain and describe the principal missions that the Center follows since 65 years?
CIEP has been established in 1945, and is located since 65 years in the first Royal Manufacture of Porcelain in Sèvres, where the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Jeunes Filles was previously held.
At that time, the goal of the institution was to create a place where teachers from different areas of the world could meet and communicate with one another.
This idea originated from the Humanists, who after the war, believed that conflicts would disappear if people could learn and talk with each other. It was not about spreading and promoting a French way of communication, but about learning from others as well as explaining our own behaviours.
Today, this philosophy remains at the heart of our action, has been able to keep its original soul while diversifying its missions.
The different CIEP’s departments intervene in trainings or in expertise in the area of the French Language (diffusion, education, certification, etc.) and of the educative system (organization, planning, governance, management, evaluation, etc).
CIEP is also operative in three ministries (Education, International Affairs, and Culture) in order to labelize the institutions of French as a foreign language in France. It also includes a department that recognizes, compares, and evaluates foreign diplomas.
Finally, one of the departments manages a dozen of programs on international mobility for teachers and students.
For example, a program of language assistant, allows every year 14,000 American students to spend a year of school in France, as it assists English teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools. However, CIEP is still about publications, a location for seminars, and a Center for sources and the engineering of recognized documentaries.
In order to learn more about these missions, you may visit : http://www.ciep.fr
On an international scale, which operators and structures does the CIEP work with?
CIEP is a public institution under the authority of the National Education Ministry.
It is one of the principal operators of the Ministry of the International and European Affairs in its promotional mission of the French language as well as in the French evaluation in the educational area. However, our collaborations are going much further.
CIEP effectively organized conventions in partnership with major French and international actors of the development of education in the world, which require us to often become the entity that put together the different operators needed for large projects.
CIEP also intervenes when asked by the Foreign Ministries that are interested by the experience and knowledge that we have acquired, to follow the educational reforms in numerous countries.
Very rare are the countries that have not been in the past, are actually, or have the project to be professionally linked with CIEP.
Right now, there are probably tens of experts from the CIEP in mission throughout the world, hundreds of teachers and educational managers at our different locations.
Every time, their goal is to think about precise topics, usually specific ones and always in context. I will only cite couple of examples that we deal with in the unit that I manage. Two weeks ago, I went to the University of Corsica to evaluate the extent to which French as a foreign language was offered to foreign students. Last week, it was at Cap-Vert that we accompany the setting of the reform of the curricula.
We can also mention the reform of the French programs at Djibouti or in Afghanistan, the training of the trainers in Iran, Switzerland or Luxembourg, the evaluation of the bilingual education in Romania, Spain, or in Turquie, our help to French teachers in Algeria, or even our participation in a project that has as a goal to give to the national African languages their place back in the educational system.
This project, that involves 8 countries and that is conducted in partnership with “l’Organisation International de la Francophonie”, “l’Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie”, “l’Agence Française de Développement” et le “MAEE” shows that for the CIEP, French cannot be promoted and developed at the expense of other languages, and even less when it is the tongue language of the students. Languages are not in competition but are complementary and in constant cooperation.
South Florida benefits from a program called “International Studies” in French in some Public American Schools. How and with which tools could CIEP support such program?
CIEP take action in Florida following the demand of the “Service de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle” of the French Embassy in the United States that has made the bilingual education one of its priorities.
The United States recognize educational competencies to the States and the term “bilingual education” can take different meanings and represent different realities in the country.
My mission is then, firstly, to visit different states, from Utah to Oklahoma, passing by Minnesota, Massachusetts or even New York and Florida, in order to observe and analyze different possibilities available and their effectiveness.
Then, we will have to see whether there are some “great practices”, possibly transferable or that can be generalized, to then suggest actions for the States and see with the SCAC the possibility to build a bilingual French-English education ambitious and exigent, but effective and more attractive for American families often searching for distinctive elements for their children education.
I would rather not anticipate the conclusion of these evaluations, but I can say that I always encounter focused and involved managers, always willing to listen. I am also in touch with qualified and motivated teachers, families that never regret their choice for this type of education and, furthermost, happy, blossomed students who study fast and really well and who go from one language to the other without difficulty.
The goal of this education is not only linguistic, but also cognitive, meaning that it allows students to develop a “mental gymnastic” that will be useful all the way through their education, no matter the language taught, and even all the way through their lives.
There is in Florida an important Hispanic community. What can be the relations between these two languages?
As explained earlier, French is not in competition with other languages present in or out the educational system, but in cooperation and complimentarily.
With Spanish, we must take in consideration a very interesting fact that specialists call “intercomprehension of the Roman languages”. French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan, etc. originate from Latin and are part of the same family. Many transparencies exist and, as many persons have experienced, a French speaker may understand words and sentences in Spanish, whether oral or written, without having studied the language before.
The same trend, obviously, exist the other way around as well.
Studies done by researchers of the California State University in Long Beach and reinforced since four years by the French Embassy, have shown that by acknowledging this fact, the learning process could be twice as fast as usually.
It seems, then, that with minimal investments and by introducing couple of hours of French starting in the fifth year for example, Hispanic students could reach a higher level than with a simple French initiation, with the same trend for French students. Even though it is exaggerated to talk about “trilingualism” at this level, it is more than likely to be a promising path to follow, that needs to be analyzed in depth.
A next meeting between the persons in charge of the study and the representatives of the French, Spain, Italian, and Portugal Embassy, should allow the extension of the experimentation which could lead to a concrete usage in class.
Numerous French professors teaching in Floridian schools mention a decrease in people’s interest for French education. Have you heard of such phenomena in other States of the United States or other places in the World, and what would be the strategies that could be used to renew this interest?
I, first of all, would like to precise that every indicators show that, contrarily to these beliefs and perceptions, French education is growing and that actual numbers are higher than ever. However, the center of this education has probably migrated. Today, it is the Sub-Saharan Africa that, thanks to a great demographic development, allows the statistics to be what they are.
In the United States as well as in other countries, we have seen a decrease in the number of people, which need to be weighted with other dimensions.
We have to realize and deplore that this decrease in the United States is not specific to French but to foreign languages in general.
Even though, there seems to be a political will and a real demand from American families for foreign languages, a study conducted by Center of Applied Linguistics in Washington depicts that the number of elementary schools that provides this type of education went from 31% in 1997 to 25% in 2008, including both the private and the public sectors. In high schools, this number went from 86% to 79%, and even from 75% to 58% in the public education.
It is, then, appropriate to evaluate the differences between quantitative datas (number of person learning foreign language) and qualitative characteristics, linked to the efficiency of such education.
The decision to promote a bilingual education follows the path of a narrower but more efficient education, in order to develop real French speakers and real Francophiles. However, we cannot talk about “elitist” programs as a great number of these schools are located in socioeconomic disadvantaged areas, which still perform very well and obtain excellent results.
I will specify that in many countries, French education is rising after having suffered, it is true, from a period of decreased interest. This trend is actually strongly linked to the introduction of a second foreign language in the educational system. English is usually the first foreign language chosen, while French is most often the second language chosen in the system.
We have to realize that, however, other languages are on the rise in the United States, sometimes at the expense of French. It is the case of the Mandarin.
However, French has strong arguments to defend itself such as being the language of France, as well as being a language of a French community of more than 220 millions of speakers and of a very broad cultural diversity. Today’s world is not the same than yesterday and the arguments in favour of the French language need to take this evolution in consideration, insisting on the utility and pragmatic characteristics of the language, without forgetting the arguments focusing on affection, identity, or even history, that can take place in some American States.