Archive for May, 2010

How does 144 days work a year sound to you?

May 14th, 2010 admin No comments

We all know that leadership and training are at the heart of all successful continuous improvement initiatives. But wouldn’t it be easier if we managed to get it right during our schooling?

A 2006 report indicated that the efficiency of the education system in France was below the average of developed nations (OCDE). If you want good schooling, live in Finland or… Korea. Now, a national investigation has revealed that :

- one in five children suffers serious reading diffculties during his school curriculum (and it’s a lot worse in maths),

- one in six leaves the schooling system without any qualifications.

This is despite the fact that 3,9% of GNP (average for the OCDE countries) is dedicated to education, but the number of pupils is far less than in Finland or Japan, who also come out really well.

Conclusions of the government task force : “it is a problem with organisation and management“. Well, I wonder how much they got paid to come up with that one!! Some of the observations made are that :

- very little review of the education policies against actual pupil requirements (who said ‘customer value’?),

- redundancy of the different systems of extra hours in place to help students with difficulties (’overproduction’),

- a too high centralisation of recruitment decisions with the local heads having very little say (’misuse of workforce potential’).

The measurement system comes in for criticism. For example, France is ‘world champion’ in having students redo a year’s curriculum due to insufficient results (it happens to 40% of them before they reach 15), with no evidence that doing improves results in the long term. However, schools obtain resources based on the number of pupils per level – where is the incentive to whisk them through the system?

The school year is made up of 144 days work, one of the shortest in the world (and I know for the fact that my son spends many of those idling his time away in self-study periods). Nearly half of lessons attract small groups given the diversity of subjects that are on offer. And who comes out of this the worst off? Those from the lower social levels, of which only 18% obtain the ‘baccalaureat’ against 78% for the better off.

What is the most frustrating in all of this is that there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place to make things any different!!



Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

What a fine mess….

May 3rd, 2010 admin No comments

Just mind games or is there an element of truth. We keep on hearing and reading that the worst of the recession is behind us, and that from now on it can only get better. However, this morning’s newspapers don’t entirely support this particular point of view.

There has been a trend over the past few months for workers to hold company directors hostage in the hope of gaining improved severance conditions. It was quite surprising however to read that the fashion has extended to a French hospital, where three members of the management team were held for around ten hours on Friday in protest against working conditions.

There are then the latest unemployment figures from Spain, where 4,6 million, or more than 20% of the workforce, are now out of work. Two years ago, the figures were 2,2m and just over 9% respectively, so have more than doubled over that period (despite the government insisting at the beginning of 2009 that the figure wouldn’t reach 4m). What seems alarming is that resignation seems to have come out stronger than the spirit of resistance, and the traditional May 1st social demonstrations didn’t raise more than a whimper.

Back to France, where according to a recent study, only 36% of young people who completed their higher education syllabus in 2009 have found work (and only half of these actually have the type of job they were looking for, and less than a quarter are on permanent rather than temporary contracts). And pretty soon, the 2010 promotions will be on the market, looking for the same opportunities.

Finally, in the US, where 15 million people (9,7%) are out of work, there is reported to be a crisis in the middle classes, where there is a strong representation of the Small to Medium Entreprises, who are taking longer to see any signs of a recovery than the larger groups who have easier access to the necessary credits.

There is one interesting piece of more positive news however, concerning the French government organisation (APEC) that is most prominant in bringing together jobs and suitable candidates for management-level positions. They are testing an approach where the CV and cover letter are replaced by a 45-minute on-line questionnaire which tests the candidate out on various practical aspects of the job he is interested in. Differentiation on responses to real-life situations rather than the school you attended. If this approach could be generalised, in a generation’s time we may have people in authority who are actually capable of sorting out the current mess we’ve all got ourselves into.

Categories: It's Happening Worldwide Tags:
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