Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Uncategorized /

My daughter received her GCSE results a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, there was no need to worry. That said, my biggest surprise came from the fact that she got A* both in English literature and English language. Why? Well, because, as you know, we happen to be French. The thing is, at around 95% in both subjects, she had better grades than her British classmates who want to study English at university. What happened? Why did none of her teachers tell us that she was bright in English? Believe me or not, I had always thought that it was her weak point. Now I wonder what I should believe. How could I get it so wrong? How could the school get it so wrong?


Every time I had to meet her English teachers I had a lecture on the fact that her punctuation was not up to standard. I have asked them to clarify, but never managed to understand what they meant exactly. To be fair, I always felt as if that they were trying to fob me off. I came to the conclusion that she needed to decorate her essays with more semi-colons, and add a few comas here and there. The fact that punctuation rules are slightly different in French obviously didn’t help her to comply with the strict English way, and probably prevented me from understanding what the problem was really about. Frankly, I wonder if there even was a problem in the first place. Well, clearly, I overanalysed the situation once again. I feel like I should have ignored the whole thing (but how can you when this is the feedback you get year after year?).

It gets worse. I was told countless times that she needed to be more mindful of her grammar, and that her ideas were still too simplistic (one teacher even said ‘babyish’ if my memory serves me well). Lovely. Can I just say what I believe has happened? Well, here it is: we were belittled simply for being French. As a result, we were bombarded with condescending comments on how fast she had learned to speak English, but patronised to death because there was always so much more to do.

Of course I am pleased with her results. I am, in fact, more than pleased :  I am very proud. But I must admit that I am also angry. How could they not see that she had so much potential? How could they keep being so negative when in fact she was a notch above the others ? What is it with an educational system that doesn’t realise when someone is bright? Maybe she wasn’t ‘technically proficient, and got penalised for not using enough hyphen and passive voices – but is this really what matters? Shouldn’t the teachers have seen through this?

So, tell me: am I overreacting? Am I being unreasonable?

  • James Casserly Omaexlibris

    I think you are right to be angry. Can’t stand teachers who are always putting children down. Clearly these teachers couldn’t be all that great if they got it so wrong. Also, it is probable that your daughter actually has a better understanding of English grammar and a better quality of writing because she had to learn it as a second language. Looking at the examples of plenty of “native” English on Facebook, in the comments section of newspapers and other media, the standard of English grammar, vocabulary and quality of writing is appalling. So congratulations to your daughter, and it’s a wonderful two fingers to those teachers who belittled her.

    • Thank you James. I don’t think that the teachers were nasty on purpose, she just is in a very British environment, and was probably standing out. No that it excuses the, but they were just doing what they were taught to do!

  • Alistair P D Bain

    I agree with James. Your disbelief is more than warranted. I’m only surprised that you and your daughter weren’t also lectured about Oxford commas.

    Droit et mon Dieu! O magistres, delicately insert that profoundly within thy most tenebracious regions and inhale the toxic motto I have just bowdlerised, whereupon I humbly suggest you open your feckin eyes and syringe the wax from your ears. Oh, what a stench doth trouble and insult my olfactory delicacies!

    And [hock! shorro! a preposition beginning a sentence!] by the way – CONGRATULATIONS, Yummy Mummy daughter! Awesomismic!
    [And the chorus was like, u kno: Neologisms are verBOTEN … !]

    • Thank you. I will pass on your congratulations to her! That said, she has now decided to study science. I think that she couldn’t take the snotty comments any longer!

  • disqus_72GXGq6drQ

    You are right – English education tends to prejudge in the non-sciences as they rely on feel rather than ability despite coursework and examination results and even in my day they were poor at judging very good from lucky! In maths and science I presume they are better…but once again the claim handler who took her o’ levels and ended up underachieving IMO rankles

  • disqus_72GXGq6drQ

    One other thought…she should consider Scholarships!