Is It True That...? #1

French public school teachers are always absent.

Everyone whose children attend a public school in France would answer with a resounding, "YES". However the rare official statistics don’t necessarily corroborate this well accepted idea.

No statistics are available for the second degree (collège and Lycée). A confidential inquiry requested in June of this year by the Minister of Education shows that 45% of the teachers in the first degree (maternelle and primaire) took at least one sick leave during the school year 2007-2008. This is twice the rate of absences in private schools. It is noted that the average leave is 11 days.

These statistics can be misleading, however, because it seems that half of these absences are related to maternity leave. Not surprising when you consider that 85% of the teachers in the first degree are women. The fact that these statistics remain confidential, however, makes it is difficult to clarify the numbers.

At the same time, a 2009 study on schools in France organized by the Ministry of National Education states that the rate of absence for this same category of teachers went from 5,98% in 1998-1999 to 7,23% in 2006-2007. It’s difficult to see through such contradictory numbers, unless an impressive wave of illness - or pregnancies - developed over a year's time.

The absence of communication might well be fueling the well accepted idea that teachers are always absent. Another factor that makes absences noticeable - and annoying - is that substitutes are called in only after a teacher has been absent for several days which means that either the class is watched over by coworkers or the children are dispatched to other classes.

*source: Le Monde , Mercredi 2 Septembre 2009, “12 idées reçues sur l’école"

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