By Mrs. Adelia HACKENHEIMER
Ex-Responsible for the English-speaking section of Georges Duby High School
Creation of the international sections of French high schools – International Option of the Baccalaureate (OIB)
The international sections of French high schools were created in 1981, in order to allow both French-speaking and foreign students to benefit from their linguistic and cultural heritage for their mutual enrichment.
The subjects in the International Option (language and literature, history and geography) are taught by the participating country which sends the teachers. Since the United Kingdom did not wish to be involved when the sections were created, the English-speaking sections operate a bit differently.
There are two types of international sections in public high schools:
- independent private sections: managed by the parents’ associations who hire the teachers and offer a wide range of educational services to the students;
- state sections: like that of Georges Duby High School, which is covered by the Department of Education to prepare the OIB.
Creation of the English-speaking section of Georges Duby High School in 1997 with 50 students
My former experience as responsible for an international section had taught me three important things:
- Obtaining the Baccalaureate may be the main purpose of high school teaching, but for the students it is only the first step towards the « Post-Bac ». It is more and more necessary for students to aquire all useful diplomas for continuing their studies in a very competitive context.
- Giving students the richest possible bilingual and bicultural formation is the guarantee of their best chance to succeed.
- The number of candidates presenting the OIB depends on what type of formation the section offers them during their three high school years. The richer this formation, the greater the number of candidates passing the OIB and the higher their level of bilingualism and biculturalism.
Choices of the English-speaking section at Georges Duby High School
1. Propose an intensive bilingual and bicultural curriculum to the greatest number.
We preferred to offer this formation not only to an elite group of bilingual or English-speaking students, but rather to bring a much larger group as far along as possible by accepting French students coming from English LV1 as well as English-speaking or bilingual ones.
Our challenge as teachers was to provide an intensive programme leading students toward bilingualism and biculturalism in three years. As a result, a larger number of candidates proceed all the way to the OIB. This challenge demands a great deal of work and an important investment on the part of both students and teachers.
2. Offer students access to a wide selection of English examinations and activities (besides the OIB)
This is possible because of the personal investment and voluntary service of the teaching team and more recently, thanks to the assistance of the active members of the AGESSIA Association.
In order to lead more students to the OIB and give them a better chance of getting a « Post-Bac » formation, they are stimulated from the beginning of Year Two: they are encouraged to learn and progress very quickly in order to obtain the diplomas which they will exploit during the highly competitive career path after the Baccalaureate. We help them acquire the knowledge and work habits to guarantee success at the OIB and beyond.
Foreign examinations, linguistic exchanges, clubs
These activities provide additional weight, rounding out the students’ cultural acquisitions and letting them prove their dynamism, determination and skills beyond the school programme.
Assessment of the international section
In France ours is the section presenting the highest number of candidates for the OIB:
- More than 100 students take the yearly Cambridge examinations (exams attesting the linguistic level acquired).
- More than 100 students take the British IGCSE examinations. Many students take 2 to 5 extra subjects as well as the French program.
- 50% of final year students ask for and obtain admission to foreign universities. The number of candidates postulating a foreign university has risen from three in 2000 to about fifty in 2010.
- 37% of grade B pass and 21% of grade A pass at the OIB in 2012.
- The students who go on to study in France obtain admission to the best preparatory classes and to Sciences-Po partly thanks to their high linguistic level.
- Les « Grandes Écoles » prefer candidates with a high linguistic level, making our students most attractive.
The International Section: victim of its own success
50 students in 1997 to over 370 today…
The section began with 50 students and we, the teachers, were able to handle all the examinations, exchanges and clubs by taking time from our work.
We succeeded in functioning this way until the size of the section made it physically impossible for the teachers to manage all the different aspects of our work.
We continued until the student population reached 300. With such a number, it was no longer possible to dominate all the administrative and pedagogical aspects and maintain the same quality of education. It became too difficult to follow their post-Bac records, enrolment, inscriptions and organize all the foreign examinations, linguistic exchanges, clubs and receive foreign parents and students.
The Board of Education could not create a precedent by giving us a secretariat – the school is low on such personnel itself. Without a solution in the high school we had to resort to the parents’ associations.
A solution to ensure the continued existence of the section
The parents become fully involved and create AGESSIA
A group of parents took an interest in the problem and set to work seriously to maintain a system which seemed successful. They decided to create an association which would have the necessary means of payment for continuing the services and activites aimed at the students in the English-speaking section.
This measure was applied in the fall of 2008 by the parents’ association of the school, at the instigation of APELEVIA and resulted in the creation of AGESSIA.
The teaching team wishes to thank:
The parents of the students in the English-speaking section for their vision and their engagement in this precious initiative, allowing the section to continue its specific activities, and for their financial contribution to AGESSIA.
The AGESSIA association which, thanks to the rare investment of a group of people and its unswerving support, has made all this possible and has contributed to the development of the English-speaking section of Georges Duby High School which has grown from 50 students in 1997 to more than 370 today.
Links to more information on the international curriculum
Information on the OIB (International Option of the Baccalaureate)
Association of the British and English-speaking International Sections
Information on the Cambridge examinations
Information on the international sections