French or not, college students have same benefits in FranceBy Queena N. Lee-Chua |Philippine Daily Inquirer
How much did it cost to study for a bachelor’s degree in French public schools in 2012-13? Half a million pesos? A hundred thousand?
Not even close. According to Camille Dulor, French embassy attaché for higher education and academic exchange, yearly tuition was P9,593 (181 euros). For master’s programs, tuition was P13,250 (250 euros).
The figures were a tiny fraction of what other foreign schools charged. They were even lower than the fees collected by many universities and colleges here.
How could French schools charge so low? The real cost of education is, of course, a lot higher, 10,000-14,000 euros per year, but the bulk is shouldered by the French government.
The French government spends 11,260 euros per student in post-secondary education—whether the student is French or not. It sets aside
6.9 percent of its gross domestic product for education. The rate is higher than the 6.1-percent average of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as a whole.
France is the continent’s second-largest economy, after Germany.
“Public policy says international students are [to be] treated the same as the French,” says Dulor. All students enjoy the same benefits, such as health insurance, housing and food assistance, even discounts in fares and leisure activities.
Foreign students, who number almost 300,000, account for 12 percent of French post-
secondary enrollment. France is now the fourth most popular academic destination, after the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
In the 2012 QS University Rankings, Paris was listed the best city for students, over London in the UK and Boston, Massachusetts, US. France’s Lyon was 14th and Toulouse 46th.
Aside from low tuition, France is attractive to students because of its temperate climate, convenient transportation, good social benefits and quality education. France has a wide diversity of programs, 85 public universities and 1,200 research laboratories, 225 engineering schools, 220 management schools, 291 doctoral schools and 3,000 specialized schools in hotel administration, tourism, journalism, communication, performance arts, cooking and more.
French thought is “analytical, structured, conducive to critical thinking,” says Dulor.
Even if French education is strong in theory (as evidenced by strong philosophy and mathematics), it is also pragmatic. Preparing students for work is essential. Internships in businesses and research centers are often integrated into the curricula. Thus, 95 percent of engineering and management graduates find jobs within six months, half of them even get hired before graduation.
“Filipino applicants are usually very enthusiastic, a good thing,” says Dulor, who is also Campus France’s representative in the Philippines. “But they should also have a project in mind. What is their goal of study?”
Supervised by the French Ministries of Foreign and European Affairs, National Education and Higher Education and Research, Campus France promotes French higher education and facilitates academic partnerships. Its website allows applicants to choose programs, get scholarships, apply for visas, etc.
From 2009 to 2012, there was a 90-percent increase in the number of Filipino students in France, the first worldwide partner of Ateneo de Manila University. Every year, Ateneo management students go to France as part of their junior term abroad.
France is also the first European partner of the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University. Enderun Colleges has the first Alain Ducasse Institute outside of France. De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde hosts Vatel, International Business School Hotel and Tourism Management.
Do foreign students have to speak French? Though it would help, it is not required in many instances. Dulor says some “700 programs are now taught in English.”
Rapunzel Acop, acting director of the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of United Nations and International Organizations, spent 18 months in the French National School of Administration in Strasbourg. She heard “lectures [on] the European Parliament, European Human Rights Court and even the Strasbourg International Airport, where we studied fraudulent passports.”
In the French Bureau of Immigration in Paris, she was relieved to discover that the head “regarded Filipino migrants in France in a very positive light, saying ‘they work very hard and are very discreet.””
Jaime Miguel Leogardo, who works in Ready Credit Initiation at Citibank Philippines, said: “Subjects are presented with an international mindset. In an entrepreneurship course in Lille, the professor asked us to formulate a business plan for a fast-food chain in Brazil, where [none of us]… had been to. [When issues are] framed in a global perspective, you come to appreciate the intricacies of your own locality and situation and see the strings that bind us all.”
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