Important School Subjects?


There is a passionate debate at the moment in France concerning the teaching of history and geography in French high schools. As part of a reform of French lycées, the idea is to establish a more balanced choice in the three main streams of study, called séries, by doing away with history and geography in the last year of the lycée for the students who choose to study science. This would concern half of the students as about 54% choose this stream.

This proposal has led to a heated controversy with famous French intellectuals signing a petition to stop this aspect of the reform. In France the teaching of history and geography is considered momentous as a way to help future citizens understand the world. Interestingly this petiton was initiated and signed by numerous Jewish historians and philosophers.

As someone who enjoyed these subjects at school and still love to learn about history I also disapprove of this plan but find the debate thought-provoking since it urges us to consider what school education is about.

As students, what subjects did you enjoy? As parents and/or citizens, what subjects do you deem important in a child’s education?

More about the French education system in this post


21 thoughts on “Important School Subjects?

  1. I wish someone had taught me in high school how to balance a checkbook. I took history in college because I loved it, but I can’t say it helped me in life. What I would have liked in high school was a good class in speech. Never had one. Typing (or keyboarding as it’s now called – my kids get it in elementary school) might have helped, too. I ended up taking a typing course after I graduated from college.

    I had lots of humanities/social sciences in my education. What I really could have used was more practical education. The working world was a shock compared to the cushiness of academia. (So eventually I got a job in academia).

  2. Due to my moving from country to country most of my childhood, my history education is EXTREMELY patchy. It’s one of my biggest regrets and I do wish I had a more broad knowledge of history.
    It’s important, not only for news, but for knowledge of different cultures.

    I think it’s more important in high school to have an understanding of a multitude of subjects than to only be specialized in one… that’s what university/college is for!

  3. I loved English writing in school and university. My major was English Literature with an emphasis on writing in the university I attended.

    I am sure this subject has opened many questions.

  4. In school, my favorite subject was math.

    Re: history – I’ve always loved reading historical fiction and even history textbooks, but I’m not sure how much I actually got out of the history classes themselves.

    Re: speech – My 10th grade English teacher had us deliver a significant number of oral reports and speeches, and in college, every student was required to take one semester of speech (public speaking) in order to graduate.

  5. Aaaagh! I am (and always have been) a history fan. I think it is one of the most important subjects in school – otherwise how can youg people understand the context of the times in which they are now living?

    My other love was and is, English Literature and Language.

    Combining these subjects led me to Law – history wrapped in both literature and language.

    As you can possibly tell, I am not overly impressed by the proposed reforms – but then our state education system is in a shocking state…

  6. They are out of their minds and I have been typing my fingers numb protesting wherever I could.
    History is our/their/everybody’s past, it’s where we ‘come’ from, geography helps young people find their place in the World and not just in their own country.
    For French’s youth both subject will also help them realise that France is not the centre, nor the beginning and the end of the planet.
    Does it show that I am angry? I hope so.

  7. If it is only in the last year of high school that students have the option of studying history or science, than it seems reasonable to me. The students have already had many years of history lessons. At 17, students can be allowed a voice in deciding what subjects they want to continue studying.

    • But they are NOT left the choice, Raizy. It’s OR Science, Or History.
      So, what if your child happens to like both?
      Look, I did Science when I was young (I was once, you know) and continued History without any problem. Learning about History never stops and I’m still learning each and every day.
      This latest idiocy of the French government is just to cover up the fact that they don’t have enough teachers/profs.

      • Raizy: In France History has been considred a core subject for decades. The curriculum is carefully spread over the years and I know that the Holocaust is dealt with when they are in their final year as it corresponds to their starting to read philosophy. This would be lost with the reform.
        Besides Deborah is right, they are only doing it to lower the total number of taught hours so that they don’t have to pay so many teachers.

  8. I have become passionate about history as an adult. When I was at school it was taught pretty badly and so I dropped the subject as soon as I could. How I regret it now.
    I think music should be compulsory until leaving school. Like sports it is a universal “language” and some of the most meaningful relationships I made as a child were because I played in a school orchestra, travelled with it and competed.

  9. Leora: I wrote a bit fast. In fact we learn creative writing until the end of middle-school but not in high school. I loved it too but was disappointed when it came to an end. I wish someone had taught me more later in years.

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