I cannot believe that there’s a little less than one month remaining in the semester. To say that my time in Lyon at Sciences Po has flown by would be an understatement. I think back to my first couple weeks of the semester and I remember how confused I was by this whole France thing. Now, with just one month left, the things that previously confused me now comfort me.
Three months into the French education system, I now can say that I am beginning to really understand how it works. While I am not exactly yet sure which schooling system I prefer, I can surely say that there are many differences between higher education in America and in France.
I think the most obvious difference between the two is the grading scale. At Temple specifically, most undergraduate classes operate on an 100 point scale. You would turn in a paper or take an exam and would then receive a grade between 0 and 100. This number would be converted to letter grade between an F, fail, and an A+. That score would then be applied to your GPA, a number between one and four.
In France, things are graded on a scale from 0 to 20. From my experience at Sciences Po as well as some of the research I have done, I have found that a passing grade starts at 10. However, most people only receive scores between 10 and 18. It is very rare to receive above an 18. The score of an 18 or higher is reserved for exceptional work.
Besides the grading system, there is also a difference in teaching style. The professors stand in front of the class every day for two hours and give a lecture that tends to be not that interactive, which is a bit different from the variety of teaching styles one would experience while at Temple. I was also surprised to find out that in France it is generally frowned upon to have more than a professional relationship with professors. At Temple, it is strongly encouraged to interact with your professors, since they are the ones who will not only write letters of recommendations but also hold the key to different extracurricular opportunities.
I have also found there to be far less extracurricular activities at Sciences Po then at Temple. At Temple there is almost literally a club for everything and for everyone. People with all sorts of interests are able to come together because of their passions. At Sciences Po there were just a handful of clubs. There is also no student center or union where students are able to mix and mingle. So for international students such as myself, it has been a bit challenging to get a chance to really integrate into the student life.
However, it has been overall very interesting to experience such a different school system. One thing that I really appreciate about the classes I am taking over here is that, due to there being only one final written exam at the end of the semester, students are really encouraged to just learn as much as possible throughout the semester. There isn’t a lot of homework given out, or a lot of outside class work. There is just one written exam at the end to see whether or not you learned what was taught in class.