Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Column That Keeps On Giving

I have written probably half a dozen posts on Paul Krugman's column "French Family Values". But what can I say, it is the world's two easiest targets, liberal NY Times columnists, and the French.

From the original article:

But there are compensations for this lower level of consumption. Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district.

From the Brussels Journal today:

Indeed, the French are reaping the harvest of their own stupid policies during the past decades. The same applies to today’s student dissatisfaction. In France a university degree does not guarantee success in life. More important than universities are the so-called grandes écoles, such as the ENA, the École nationale d’administration. The ruling élite (to which Prime Minister Villepin and President Chirac belong but not, significantly, their rival, the “pro-Anglo-Saxon” Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy) consists of so-called énarques or ENA alumni. The state run grandes écoles can only be entered after taking two years of “classes préparatoires” (or prépas). It is very difficult, and costs a fortune, to get admitted to the prépas, with the result that university is only a second choice for many students.

For the French state, too, universities are merely second choice. While it subsidizes the prépas with 13,760 euros per head per year, universities get only 6,700 euros per head per year. Universities are typically overcrowded institutions, housed in old, delapidated buildings. In general students are not even free to choose their university, but have to go to the one nearest to where they live. Almost half of the students fail to pass the first two of the six years, and leave the institution after two years without a degree, entering the job market without qualifications. Mia Doornaert, a Belgian journalist who has lived in France for many years, describes French universities as “parking lots” for youths, where they can be stored for two years, allowing the government to pretend that unemployment figures are actually lower than they really are.