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15 Aug 2009

Back to school....

By the second week of August, when many French people are just getting into the feel of their holidays, something changes. Every supermarket, clothes shop, and many others start hanging out banners and placards and advertising around ‘La Rentrée’ - back to school. Check this web site for an office supplies company, to get a feel.

The reason is that unlike in Britain, where all the essential materials like notebooks and pens are provided by the school, in France the child must provide his or her own.

And not just the simple things: folders, rulers, binders, plastic covers – an enormous range of things. And not just any old stationery. Every item is specified and specific – this brand, or detailed option, that colour, that thickness, this type of lines on the paper.

The stationery aisles in the supermarkets are hugely expanded for three or four weeks, and are full of anxious parents, distraught small children, and sophisticated older kids trying to beat the system by selecting personalised things. All of them have A4 printed leaflets from their schools specifying what and how many of everything they must have.

Seems dreadfully unfair to talk so much about back to school so early in the holiday break, and put so much pressure on children and their families. All part of a belief in education and involvement, I suppose. Better, anyway, than couldn’t care les kids always unprepared for their lessons, or indeed school in any way.

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