Better Than “Le Bac”: A Lesson, All in French, about Educational Reform in France

He's spent years in places like Senegal and Indonesia helping French and American soldiers adapt to new cultures. And on Friday, Henri Boré, retired French colonel and current president of Alliance Française of Hampton Roads, helped NA seniors in French 4 and French 5 learn about the effort and energy it takes to truly know a people and the educational system that shapes a culture.

"I've spent 20 years living in the US and I still do not know everything about America and Americans," confessed Boré, a naturalized US citizen who retains his French citizenship as well. Boré related that, in his work in the French army, he met a lot of French soldiers living in the U.S. who claimed to know the American mentality after just one year.

"I told them that it was impossible to know any people because there is so much 'beneath the surface'," Boré said.

Students asked him a lot of good questions especially about the new educational reforms taking place this year in France, which place a higher value on grades and less on the dreaded Baccalaureat exams the end of French high school.

"When I was your age I was not a great student. My parents had to send me to monasteries during vacations," remembered Boré, who spoke the entire 90 minutes in French. He said that he worked very hard to pass the famous French exams, which take place the last two weeks of one's senior year. He much prefers the current reforms.

Boré spoke too about elitism in France and how the country is trying to move away from that.

For their part, the students appreciate not just what he said but that they could understand everything.

"The best thing a student of French can do is listen to a native speaker!" said Madeleine Munn '19.  

“I really enjoyed him speaking to our class,” said Sydney LeGuillow '19. “Often it’s hard to understand the educational and social system of France, and he did a great job explaining it.”

Mr. Warrren Warsaw, Upper School French teacher and chair of the Foreign Language Department, hopes to invite Mr. Boré back to his classes next year and beyond.  

For more information on Alliance Française, a world-wide organization promoting the French language, and its courses, please visit the website at