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Friday, July 5, 2013

Bac 2013: A Fine Fourth of July

Yesterday afternoon I took the 171 bus from Versailles to Sèvres to pick up the younger Frenchlings French baccalaureate results.  The French bac is the exam French students take at the end of high school to graduate and to move on to higher education.  It serves the same purpose as the SAT in the U.S. but it's a very different experience.  It's not one exam, it's many over the course of a week with some written (essay questions) and others oral.  Students have to work very hard just to pass, much less do well enough to get into a good school.

The younger Frenchling had double the fun.  Four years ago she decided that she wanted an education that was more international - something similar to her school in Tokyo - and she was motivated enough to do the research herself. What she found was the Lycée de Sèvres.

Sèvres - Sections Internationales is a state-supported (public) French school on the outskirts of Paris that offers not just one but two bi-lingual programs (German and English) from elementary school through high school. The students follow the regular French curriculum in French (indispensable for passing the French Bac) but then have other classes in the second language in order to prepare for a wide range of other certifications recognized by the German, UK, US, and other university systems.  What an elegant solution for bi-lingual education and since this is a public school, it's affordable for a middle-class family here.

But just as she spent four years with extra classes and a very long school day (8 AM to 5 PM), this meant that she had extra exams too.  There were 16 of them over two weeks in French and English.  At one point she was so tired and stressed out that she told me that she was having second thought about having done this program.  

She survived just fine and when it was over her father whisked her off to Japan (her graduation present) for a week sightseeing in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.  I stayed behind (I'm still not 100%)  and had the task of picking up her scores yesterday.

The atmosphere at the school when I arrived was almost exactly what it was two years ago at the elder Frenchling's high school.  A lot of very tense kids.   As each student received his or her results, there was great joy on the part of some and deep despair for others.  There was one young man who kept looking at his scores and saying, "Mais qu'est qui se passe?" (What's going on here?) Other kids were leaping into the air screaming "Oui!" and hugging their fellow students with joy.

I was as stressed as the kids but I'm a nearly 50 year old "Madame", very conscious of her dignity, and so I took the folder and went to another room to turn in her books and have a look.  Under the eye of one of the administrators I opened the file and started reading.  

There were two conditions for the younger Frenchling to get her admission to the University of Montreal Physics program confirmed:  pass the Bac (total score over 10) and get at least 11 in Mathematics and Physics.  As I read the scores I started smiling.  She ACED math and physics - she got 16/20 in both subjects and her overall Bac results earned her a "Mention Bien."  I threw up my hands and yelled at the top of my lungs in English, "My daughter is going to be a Physicist!"  

So the younger Frenchling will be joining her sister in Montreal (the elder Frenchling is at McGill doing Honours Psychology) this fall.  I am so proud of both my daughters.  My dreams as a parent have been realized -  I have children who are much much smarter than I am. 


Blaze said...

"If you want your children to be intelligent,read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent,read them more fairy tales." (Albert Einstein)

You must have a lot of fairy tales to your daughters-in both French and English.

P. Moore said...

Great news, Victoria. I hope you daughter will have a great experience in Montreal and at McGill. Be careful though, once she is in Canada, we might entice her to stay for good!! We like taking smart young educated people from other countries.

Daniel said...

well done madame! our boy is in premier at a similar lycee in Bordeaux.....we are already nervous for him.

Mercy said...

A fine fourth of July indeed. I am really really happy for you. Awesome result. Well done to her. She really deserved her trip to Japan. I have 2 daughters (2 years and 7 weeks old). It is still a long way ahead but I hope and pray they make me proud too.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful news. Congrats.

Julia Gandrud (aka JuliaLikesFrogs) said...

A very warm congratulations to you and your daughters! How stressful that must have been!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Blaze, My sister in Portland deserves a lot of the credit here. She's a librarian and kept both girls well stocked with English language books.

@P. Moore, I would be THRILLED if one or the other wanted to stay in Canada. My aunt (their great-aunt) who lives near Vancouver, B.C. took the leap over 20 years ago and is very happy to be a Canadian today. :-)

@Daniel, Your Bac adventure is just beginning! Best of luck to your family (especially your son). It's tough but it's so worth it. I would love to hear more about his high school. You say it's similar to the Lycee de Sevres?

@Mercy, I really miss those days when the girls were little. I envy you - so much ahead and I know they will make you proud.

@Andrew, Thank you. Your son is in school in Toronto, right?

@Julia, Lots of stress true but it feels so good when it stops. :-)