Differences in French and American Education Systems
A Chinese proverb says, "If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people." While sojourning in schools anywhere in the world, we will likely observe a number of similarities. Conversely, the education system in one country is not transposable to the system in any other country. It cannot be precisely identical inasmuch as each culture is different. The educational systems in the and in diverge greatly; however, each system succeeds in preparing children for a career. Four most notable areas seem to stand out between the French and the American educational systems: grading systems, teacher/student relationships, tuition, and extracurricular activities. These differences shape social structures, values, cultural identities, competitiveness, and interrelations among these societies.
To begin with, according to the website Wikipedia, contrasts with in regard to the evaluation of students. French educators favour the 20-point grading scale, in which 20 is the highest grade and 0 the lowest, while Americans grade on a percentage of 100 or give letter grades such as A, B, C, D and F. In , anything below an eight appears to be a failing mark whereas in the , an "F" means a failure and no credit for it toward colleges. Marc Boime, who was a French exchange teacher at Warrensburg High School in Missouri last year, commented, "In this school the cut-off is 59.5 %, and students fail if they have less than that. If we compare the cut-off for an F on the 0 to 20 scale, it means that a student whose final grade is less than 11.8/20 fails the class." In high school, French students have one final test called the "baccalaureat" which also uses the 20-point grading scale. The diplomat "baccalaureat" is nearly comparable to the American ACT or SAT which are college entrance exams after high school. An American who takes the SAT will obtain an online score report; on the other hand, a French freshman who passes the "baccalaureat" could also get an honour from the jury. The examiners can give different prizes, such as highest honours, high honours, or honours. Honours are prestigious and crucial when students apply for admission in higher educational institutions or in famous universities. It seems that the French push for a much more extensive learning experience given their high degree of difficulty in their grading system and in their system for advancing. In the same way, Americans promote a higher education with a grading system based on only five levels. One effect is the delicate interpretation of these grades from one country to another, when international education requires a credential evaluation, a credit transfer or a grade translation. In particular, simple mathematical formulas with their claim to universality might be a misleading over-simplification of a reality they fail to capture.
            A second divergence relating to French and American educational systems is based on the relationship between teachers and students. The American company Transparent Language reported, "In the , teachers are seen as friends, people to rely on and trust. However, French teachers have a clear-cut purpose: to teach students." To illustrate this informality, whereas the French student will call the teacher by a title or position, the American student often calls the teacher by his or her first name. Also, as reported by the documentary Culture Shock, friendly and informal behaviour with a teacher is seen as normal in an American school. Instead, in this level of casualness might be very low or almost impossible. To illustrate the divergence based on the relationships between the teacher and the student, Gary Althen, who wrote American Ways, reported the following example. He said, a staff member at a university international office, invited a group of French exchange students to her home for dinner. When the dinner party ended, the French students remarked that such an event would almost never happen in their country. They were astonished to be invited into her home; moreover, they were surprised to see people socializing so easily. In brief, relationships between teachers and students appear to be more formal in and much less in the . This may influence students in their diversity, their level of self-confidence, their