Sorbonne Confidential

Author: Laurel Zuckerman
Publisher: Summertime Publications Inc
RRP: UK£17, US$25 (Amazon) and US$39 (Amazon)
French Edition (Zuckerrman and Fayard)
GT Issue: 2010 T2

This wickedly funny but also slightly sad book about one woman’s attempt to gain the qualification in France which will entitle her to teach English at primary, secondary or university level depending on her pass mark. That however is a year in the future. In the interim Alice Wunderland, whose life bears a remarkable similarity to the author’s, has to understand the system and make sense of the idiosyncrasies of the French education system which could be described as a closed shop to all but native French speakers. So what chance for an American who finds herself unemployed after many years working in France in the IT industry? She is a graduate of France’s leading business school and has been a city councilor, she has acquired a French husband, gained two daughters and has a French passport but the success or otherwise of Alice Wunderland depends on her ability to follow the rules… all of which appear to be stacked against her.

This cuttingly accurate description of the journey through the French teacher training system helps to make sense of why France reputably produces the worst English teachers in the EU. Without actually mentioning in so many words the antipathy the French and English appear to have for each other it is obvious that the French like the Americans even less.

The system appears to be more interested in the pursuit of academia and purist thought than to be aware of how to teach children… how they learn and how they should be taught.
Sorbonne Confidential talks of a system which over hundreds of years has grown into a huge self perpetuating industry where the majority of the candidates are doomed to fail and the ones who pass often find they are not suited to teaching and are not equipped with the skills necessary to work with a class of 30 children.

Alice finds that she is not alone in her experience and that other candidates who she befriends also have difficulties, she looks to do an expose which when it is finished will make interesting reading.

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