Life different Down Under

FRANCOIS: "There are a lot of jobs in Australia. People can get jobs young, they can't in France."

YOUNG Australians have a much easier time finding work than young French people, says an exchange student who will wind up two and a half months at Collie High School at the end of next week.

It is rare for French students to work after school or at weekends, as many Australians do, said Francois, whose exchange organisation requires that his surname not be revealed.

“There are a lot of jobs in Australia,” he said. “People can get jobs young, they can’t in France.

“Most of my friends in France have never worked.”

The overall unemployment figure was 10 per cent in France and higher for young people.

“You have to study if you want to work in France. It’s not as easy as in Australia.”

Francois comes from a town, whose name cannot also not be revealed, but it is near Dijon, the capital of Burgundy.

“It is small town, about the same size as Collie, but has a cinema and a year-round swimming pool,” he said.

Francois, the son of Chinese emigrants, speaks French, English, Peking (Mandarin) Chinese and is learning Spanish.

He attends school in Dijon and said schooling there is radically different to Australia’s education system.

French students are split into three groups – primary from six to 10 years old, secondary from 10 to 14 and high school from 15 to 17.

From there students can go directly to university, into apprenticeships, work or do other study. Francois expects to opt for the latter and go to a private school after high school and before university.

French students have a much wider curriculum, different relationships with their teachers and are credited with being able to behave in a more adult way.

“We don’t wear uniforms,” he said.

School attendance was also very different. He could arrive at school at 8am, 9am or 10am, depending on when his lessons were scheduled.

Finishing time could be 3pm, 4pm, 5pm or even 6pm. “There are no fixed times as there are in Australia,” he said. “You go according to your subjects and can leave for a couple of hours and go back.”

French students also treated their teachers with much more respect than their Australian counterparts, he said. Here the relationship between teachers and students was more like friendship and he could see some advantages in teaching that way.

In some ways, school life in France is much stricter because it is more formal.

That is probably necessary because class sizes are much bigger. He was in a class of 35 last year, though the average was about 30, whereas Collie Senior High School classes averaged 10 to 15 students.

In Australia there was more variation in students doing different subject classes than in France, where the same students would go from one class to another.

Secondary and high school students in France do 10 or 11 subjects whereas Australians study five, he said.

Francois’ subjects at home included science, history, geography, sport, English, French, Spanish and literature.

Some subjects were studied and examined in year 11 and the rest in year 12.

He was aiming to become an engineer but had not settled on which branch of engineering. He did not know enough to decide but was interested in all science and wanted his degree to be job-orientated.

Francois’ parents were first-generation emigrants to France.

His mother moved there as an 18 year old. She had studied French in China but wanted to study the language in France. His father had fallen in love with her so followed her to France.

They married and had two sons, Francois and his older brother who is 20 years old and at business school.

Francois’ mother teaches Chinese and his father is an interpreter.

His departure is not expected to end his link with the Collie school. Deputy principal Dale Miller said next year’s Anzac tour is hoping to meet Francois in France.