It was great to see everyone during Parents Weekend. I enjoyed being on the other side of the conference lines. You all look great. After returning to Europe, we went to Paris for three days, and I spent time at the Sorbonne and at the American School of Paris, two leaders in international education.
On a walk around the student section of Paris, I went into the reception area of the Sorbonne (Universite Paris-Sorbonne), and the lobby had a piece on its history. According to the exhibit, a medieval school of theology had been operating in Paris for awhile when in 1254 Robert de Sorbon, a chaplain, said he wanted to create a college not only for teaching theology but also for the hosting and nurturing of poor teachers and students. [“l’hebergement et l’entretien des pauvres maitres et escholiers”—you may want to check my translation with Janice or Lew.)
The back story here is that the students up to that point had to find their own housing and there had been a street protest about the cost and quality of housing in the neighborhood. (I guess the practice of young people throwing rocks in the streets of Paris goes back aways!) Only the very wealthy could get adequate housing. When the college started offering hebergement to the students, they organized them into four “nations.” Nation had a somewhat different meaning back then, but essentially they housed students according to their cultural, linguistic and political background. Here’s a map of the four nations:
So instead of mixing the different cultures, they housed the students with familiar faces. They also provided house masters, food and rules of behavior, or entretien. At that time, the students usually started at around age 14, so as I read the history, I thought: “This is one of the first boarding schools!”
The Sorbonne was one of the few medieval universities in Europe. Over the centuries, its practice of safely housing its students helped attract some of the best young minds from around Europe. I wondered if its boarding program was one of the reasons that by early modern times, the European center for philosophy, scientific advancements and art had moved from the Italian peninsula to Paris. One could argue that the Sorbonne was the first place to realize that an affordable, respectable boarding program would help them attract talented students from all over Europe (which was like from all over the world to them.) Of course, supporting that claim would require more research. However, I found no evidence of a 13th century job program or parent teacher speed conferences in their history.
From the Sorbonne, I travelled out to the American School of Paris (ASP) which is actually in Saint Cloud. ASP is the first modern international school established in Europe, founded in 1946 to educate the children of diplomatic and corporate families moving into the rubble of post war Europe. In 1967, ASP moved to its current campus. The area had been occupied by NATO, but when NATO moved to Brussels, ASP moved in. Up until this year, the French government had owned the land, but in 2009 the French government asked ASP to buy the land outright or move to another spot by the end of 2012.
ASP offers both the IB Diploma Programme and AP tests, and we discussed how they thought that the IB assessments were more thorough. When I asked why they kept the AP, they responded that many American families ask for the AP over the IB. In terms of their global education program, ASP is working on how to best prepare engaged global citizens. They feel that engagement cannot occur in a traditional classroom, and they are pushing for more off-campus immersion experiences. Like most schools, however, the regular school year feels “too busy” to schedule those encounters, so they are trying to create more options and funding for vacation and summer trips. The difficulty of pulling students out of the traditional classroom is a common theme this year.
ASP also extends into the local community with an Extension program for French school children on Wednesday, Saturdays and vacations. The programs focus on English language acquisition and American culture. The themes I saw focused on Native Americans and Jazz music. It is open to lower, middle and upper school students and works at distinct levels of ability. Over 2,000 French students participate in the program. A main building on campus is dedicated to the Extension school. The program reminded me of the large demand for learning English language and culture among international families.
Finally, I also wandered into a Mathematics and Art exhibit near the Sorbonne. Below (and also attached) is one of the displays. In Paris, they find love in math:
The next post will feature a guest writer. Martha travelled to Jordan last week and visited King’s Academy. Stay tuned.