Why don’t children learn to read the same way? – France

We thought that the assessments had long since brought everyone together, that the battle of methods (syllabic, semi-global, global) was over and that our little angels, in the year of their six candles, had all passed masters in the art of P O-po and BA-ba. And now this note from the Scientific Council of Public Education (CSEN) falls in October. We read that, three years after the publication of an “orange guide” which should be the bible of CP institutes, “many teachers continue to use ineffective textbooks”, that the methods recognized to give the best results (those with ) “they continue to be the least used” while “the teaching practices that complicate entry into writing are in the majority in France”. Just that.

Strong reactions

The alert is based on a study conducted among 16,000 school teachers by Jérôme Deauvieau, educational sociologist, and by Depp (Department of Evaluation, Forecasting and Performance). Its distribution, accompanied by 18 pages of recommendations and a letter to teachers entitled “How to learn to read effectively?” “, sows amazement among the parents of the students and arouses a deluge of reactions from the teachers scandalized by this “accusation”.

Everyone does it a little in their own way, in the name of sacrosanct pedagogical freedom.

“Evaluating practices is taboo”

But why, in 2022, don’t our children all learn to read in the same way?

“There is an extreme heterogeneity of practices in France. In the absence of a method chosen at the national level, everyone has their own way, in the name of sacrosanct educational freedom”, confirms Brigitte Prot, educational psychologist, teacher and trainer. “The subsequent questioning of the alphabetic, global, semi-global approaches, the contributions of research and cognitive science, the contradictory injunctions… have created the conditions for a soup from which we will not emerge until a nationwide inventory and evaluation practices will not be established,” he predicts.

Even last year, nearly one in two students failed to reach 50 words read in a minute when they entered CE1. “But what do we do with these assessments? Individual practices are not questioned, it is taboo and, therefore, there is no redress in schools,” he complains.

Different teachers and students

For Pierre Merle, a sociologist specializing in educational policies and professor emeritus at the UBO, the panorama is much more subtle and the answer to be provided is the same. « Les enfants n’apprennent pas à lire de la même façon because their teachers belong to des générations différentes, qu’ils n’ont pas tous reçu la même formation, au même moment, ni vécu les mêmes expériences d’enseignement, dit -they. And, also, because the same students are different”.

Mastering the alphabet and syllables is necessary but not sufficient to know how to read, that is, to decipher and understand.

Pierre Merle is professor emeritus of sociology at the Inspé de Bretagne, author of numerous works on educational policies. (Picture Pierre Merle)

A clever balance between deciphering and understanding

“The fastest can acquire up to twenty graphophonetic codes (CGP) during the first nine weeks of learning to read, when the others will not go beyond 14 CGP,” he continues. Mastering the alphabet and syllables is necessary but not sufficient to know how to read, that is, to decipher and understand. To achieve this result you need meaning, and therefore text, through simple sentences such as “mom is sick” and short stories. This is why 90% of teachers in the school use mixed methods.

The difficulty, according to Pierre Merle, consists in “combining code and understanding with the order and proportion that best correspond to the pupils in the class”, concludes the author of “Let’s talk about school in 30 questions” (La Documentation française) . The proof is that not all countries recommend exactly the same method.”

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