Yesterday I had an interesting encounter with a lady from Romania and her daughter (4 years old). My daughter and I were playing at a playground in The Hague city centre. (Rabbijn Maarsenplein) As always my daughter found her playmate within seconds and it happened to be a lovely looking bright eyed girl. Before the two mums exchanged a word the girls were already communicating non-verbally and verbally. The verbal part was especially interesting. My daughter spoke to the girl in Dutch and the girl responded in English. But was English her first language? Over a conversation with the Romanian lady I found out that the girl chose English to be her first language!
The girl is growing up in a household where her mum speaks Romanian to her, her dad speaks Greek and her parents speak English with each other, because neither one speaks the partners language. The girl started speaking English when she was going to childcare and from there on she chose to speak English at home. As if three languages wasn’t enough already she is now even capable of communicating in French. From December last year she attends the French school in The Hague. Their motivation to get her admitted to the French school was a practical one. They were advised that the French education system is the same in every country they would travel to. And that they will travel is a certainty, because the girl’s father is working for the Greek embassy. In the midst of all changes they wanted to provide their daughter a stable and dependable education system. I’ve heard some horrifying stories about the French education system so I was curious after their experience.
The Romanian lady spoke about teachers reprimanding children who somehow disturbed the class. They would be set apart in another class for like ten minutes. She thought there wasn’t something wrong in their way of handling disobeying children. There were no horrifying stories shared here. Another story she did share was one regarding the primary school our daughter will start attending from September on. It’s the JFK Montessori school in The Hague. It is a remarkable story of a teacher who walked into a class where the children were talking loud and making lots of other noises. The parent who shared this story with the Romanian lady witnessed the teacher started singing in a soft voice and the children responded to this with lowering their voices and noises. Amazing!
I found it particularly interesting to listen to all these stories, because of her open attitude towards these two different education systems. She was happy with the French school and at the same time understanding and in awe of the way of teaching at a Montessori school. But there was a huge difference in the way our daughters thought and interacted with each other. On a basic human level they connected in a playful way and there was a continuous desire to interact and have fun. But then somehow when both girls were on the swing the girl told her mum to push her higher, because she wanted to go faster and higher than my daughter. While shaking her head slightly as if to say she’s not agreeing nor happy with this attitude, but nevertheless with a smile, she explained that her daughter is very competitive in every aspect of her life.
I have the feeling she didn’t link the competitiveness with the people that her daughter is surrounded with in school and the education she is receiving. But I’m not sure, perhaps she is aware of it and dealing with it in her own way. For now I believe they have other concerns; they will start packing for their move to Teheran this August where they will stay for two years before moving to Greece for two years. It seems that in between all this instability the French education system provides them the certainty they need and believe their child needs.