France's Socialist President Calls for End of Homework
In the name of equality, the French government has proposed doing away with homework in elementary and junior high school. French President Francois Hollande argues that homework penalizes children with difficult home situations, but even the people whom the proposal is supposed to help disagree.
It's 5:30 p.m. and getting dark outside, as kids pour out of Gutenberg Elementary School in Paris 15th arrondissement. Parents and other caregivers wait outside to collect their children. Aissata Toure, 20, is here with her younger sister in tow. She's come to pick up her 7-year-old son. Toure says she's against Hollande's proposal to do away with homework.
"It's not a good idea at all because even at a young age, having individual work at home helps build maturity and responsibility," she says, "and if it's something they didn't quite get in school, the parents can help them. Homework is important for a kid's future."
There's another big reason the French government is making changing school policy a top priority, Gumbel says.
"The French are discovering — to their horror — that their performance internationally has been declining over the last 10 years. The French actually are performing [worse] than the Americans in reading and science," he says.
This is a huge shock, Gumbel says, to a country that long considered itself an education pioneer.
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