French Schools on the Big Screen: Is the Republican Model Sustainable?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Conference Room - 250 (University of Glasgow)
Michèle Bissière , Languages and Cultures Studies, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Films set in French schools in the last twenty years increasingly question the viability of the Republican model, especially in the multicultural banlieues. Some fiction films merely take stock of what is wrong with the education system and play on the spectator’s anxieties through drama or humor, while others also address questions raised by pedagogues and administrators: How should one teach the French language to students who lack cultural capital? Are programs—and the literary canon in particular—relevant ? Should teachers account for the diversity of the student body in their pedagogy? In addition to fiction films, a host of well-received documentaries produced since 2010 reflect on the same issues and present the challenges of integrating immigrant populations into the school system and promoting social and ethnic mixing when students assignment plans do not. These documentaries offer a much more positive picture of the French educational system by foregrounding innovative programs and experiments that work.