Here in Canada or the U.S. we’re pretty darn lucky.
Once we get into college (U.S.) or university (Canada), we can work reasonably hard, obtain a diploma, fight other newly minted grads for a job, and then never have to worry about that diploma or what marks we received haunting us for the rest of our career.
No one will EVER, EVER ask us what school we went to, what marks we got or anything in between.
The only difference between going to a college instead of a community college (U.S.) or a university instead of a college (Canada), is based on 4 major factors off the top of my head:
- Price / Cost of Tuition
- The Network of Students to interact with and keep in touch with over your career
- The Companies that come to recruit at your school
- Subjects /Professions being taught
However this is not the case in other countries, most notably in Japan and France (those two stand out the most to me because of how strict they are, and also how much reading / research I’ve come across on them).
JAPAN IS ALL ABOUT GETTING INTO THIS ONE SCHOOL
In Japan, they all study like maniacs to get into Tokyo University, otherwise known as “Todai”.
They spend about a year or two in a preparatory period as students, studying full-time, taking tests and competing with all the other students in prep schools to see if they get in to Todai.
Once you get into Todai, you are SET FOR LIFE.
You will never have to worry about getting a job, everyone will hire you, and you turn into this educational rockstar of sorts.
If you’re a guy, it is VERY easy to find a girlfriend once you tell them you made it into Todai because they know your career is pre-determined for the stars.
How do I know this?
Unsurprisingly, because I watch and read a lot of manga / anime, and this seems to be a huge running theme in their storyline.
So much so, that I pretty much gleaned the basics of how to get into Todai, and then researched more into it on my own via reading non-fiction books on education.
FRANCE IS NOT THAT DIFFERENT
In France, it isn’t that different. Same sort of concept — you study like a maniac for at least 2 years in prep school, and then you sit for exams to get into business or engineering schools.
Every school is also ranked by the government, and everyone knows who the first-rank schools are (they descend down to fourth-rank schools as well).
They even have to pass a high school exam called the “baccalaureate” or “bac” for short, where they MUST demonstrate (among other things) two learned languages — English being one, and then another of their choice.
This European-style of forcing languages to be learned by students is something I think is sorely lacking in North American education, but I digress.
I don’t remember having to pass ANY final, standardized exam to graduate high school. You kind of put in the time, obtain the credits you need (obviously you need to pass those courses), and get your high school diploma.
That’s about it.
(And maybe that’s the problem — we don’t even have a standardized secondary school exam nationwide.)
Anyway, if you don’t get a good school the first year, you can spend another year in prep school to try and sit for the exam again the next but you cannot study indefinitely.
Eventually, some students basically give up and end up doing something else, totally discouraged and dejected from their failure to achieve a school of any ranking.
The end result is the same as in Japan.
Once you have the diploma and flash that you’re from Polytechnic (in Paris, mind you, not any other location *cough*), the ultimate, most prestigious school for engineers (for instance), you are SET FOR LIFE.
You will just have to go to an interview, slide your resume over, have them glance at your degree, and then offer you a job without thinking twice about it.
You might think it’s not a big deal but to get a job offer in your chosen area at all, is a dream in France.
ERR.. IT’S JUST A JOB… SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
For this, I can only speak for France (thanks to my inside sources), but apparently this is a big effin’ deal in France because they suck at hiring people mostly because it is very difficult to fire someone without solid proof that they are not fit for the job, which can take 2 years for a manager to gather.
Once the fire you, they HAVE to give you a severance package based on how long you have been there and what pay level you were at.
Basically the longer you have been there and the more money you have been paid, the more expensive it becomes for a company to fire you.
This makes companies in France very reluctant to hire anyone because they see how expensive it can be to get rid of them if they don’t work out.
This is nothing at all like in the U.S. where if you are in a state with at-will employment laws, they can fire you just for not liking you as a person, and not have to give you jack squat.
In Canada, they can fire you just as easily, but they have to give you at least 2 weeks of pay in severance.
They say that once you’re fired from a job in France you either never find one at the same level again, or you end up taking a year and a half or so to find a similar job.
The difference only exists for those who have gone to the best schools in France for business or engineering.
They are NEVER out of a job, and if they enter a room and are competing with other resumes, the best diploma of the bunch will win hands down, no matter what experience the other people might have.
Finally, you can only rise so far with your diploma and if you didn’t go to THE BEST school(s) in France, you are capped at a certain level.
Let’s say you worked really hard your entire life even though all you could achieve was a college degree in France.
You can still make it to an executive level of sorts, but you will never, EVER reach the upper echelons of executives. Those spots are reserved for those previous students who went to the best schools in France.
(Stands to reason, there are only so many Vice-President or President spots to begin with.)
SO WHY DON’T PEOPLE JUST LEAVE?
I hear all of this and always wonder why more people who couldn’t make it into those schools don’t just leave France and move abroad..
….but it’s the same reason why people here can’t even leave their own neighbourhood, let alone city or state/province to find a better opportunity.