Isabelle Bonnal, “My reward is the students’ very good examination results”

2015-05 interview-bonnal

Heading the Department of Education, Youth and Sport, Ms Isabelle Bonnal manages the organisation and administration of public education and private education under contract of Principality, from nursery schools to higher education. She is also responsible for implementing government policy on Youth and Sports. A hands-on woman, Ms Isabelle Bonnal is anxious to maintain close links with the school management teams, staff and sports associations of Monaco. As AMAF members take interns from Monaco’s higher education courses, we thought it would be interesting to question her today on one component of her  role - education.

You are Director of Education, Youth and Sport – that is a large area

Indeed, the field of my roles covers different, complementary realities. It is important to be aware that Monaco’s schools currently accommodate 4582 students in the public sector and 1288 in the private sector under state contract, so in all 5870 students of 80 different nationalities. These students benefit from very diversified teaching and activities, provided by teachers of excellent quality. The really exceptional results obtained in the end of course examinations, such as the Baccalaureate and the Diplôme National du Brevet, confirm this every year. Sport is also part of our students’ development and structuring by virtue of its shared values with education. I also wish to emphasise that some of our students are high level athletes who follow a very demanding training schedule in parallel to a classic school curriculum. In order to allow them to reconcile these two approaches, classes with adjusted hours have been set up in Year 11 at Lycée Albert 1er  from last September for these young athletes.

New residents ask many questions about their children’s education. What level of studies can be followed in Monaco?

In Monaco, education is compulsory up to age 16. The schools allow students to follow a full school curriculum from primary to secondary, and higher education also. Pupils are welcomed in six public nursery and primary schools and two private schools under state contract. Secondary students can study in two secondary schools (one public and one private) as well as two public high schools, including a technical and hotel school, and one private high school. It should be noted that abroad, Monaco’s schools are considered French schools. The school-leaving qualifications studied for in them are those officially issued by the French Republic.

And specifically regarding higher education?

The Lycée Albert 1er and the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monaco offer higher education courses leading to four qualifications:

  • BTS Assistant Manager vocational training certificate
  • BTS in Accounting and Managing Organisations vocational training certificate
  • BTS Hotels and Catering vocational training certificate
  • Diploma in Accounting and Management.

There are three other higher education establishments in Monaco:

  • The Institut de Formation en Soins Infirmiers
  • The Ecole Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques
  • The International University of Monaco, which offers Bachelor, Master and Doctoral Programme courses in the areas of management, finance, and luxury goods and services.

What happens when young children arrive in Monaco without mastering the French language?

Our country is very open internationally. Many children are welcomed when they master French badly or only a little. The Department of Education, Youth and Sport makes every effort such that these students may, in a short time, follow a normal school curriculum and master the language of their host country. Thus, they are proposed teaching measures adapted to them, aimed at facilitating their integration into the Monegasque school system: tutoring in basic subjects, and French as a Foreign Language classes (FLE). The children are perfectly integrated in a few months. Non-francophone parents also have the opportunity to enrol their children in the International School of Monaco (ISM), a bilingual primary and secondary school which prepares students for the International Baccalaureate (Geneva Baccalaureate).

You mentioned being open internationally. Does that apply to education as well?

Of course, it is one of the strengths of our education system – we constantly strengthen language teaching: for many years English has been taught from nursery classes and “international” and “European” English language sections have been set up in secondary schools; Chinese is taught in Year 7, Year 9 and Year 11 in public schools, as is Russian in the private schools under contract. At François d'Assise-Nicolas Barré private high school, additional teaching hours in English have been assigned in preparation for the future “English language” section. An “Italian language” European option is also open for the 2015 baccalaureate session.
Furthermore, I wanted the international course of Lycée Albert 1er to be restructured with the placing of a “University Counsellor”: in the event of studies continued in an Anglo-Saxon country, a specialist teacher of English benefiting from a reduced teaching load supports the students in the registration process within these universities, which can be difficult. This support was really essential.

Are you also ahead in terms of placing schools in the digital age?

This is both an educational imperative and a social project. Including digital technology in teaching means developing diversified teaching practices, for example being able to help students in a more personalised way. It also increases the pleasure of learning and going to school by achieving learning in a fun way. Lastly it reduces inequalities – which I see as an essential objective. A student with a disability or a disabling health issue should benefit from appropriate pedagogical approaches which take into account the student’s real needs and allow him or her to benefit from the same teaching as his or her classmates.

Are your many efforts recognised with good results?

As I highlighted earlier, the examination results are really remarkable. The pass rate of students in Monaco in the 2014 session of the general baccalaureate was over 99%, which is exceptional but also consistent with the pursuit of excellence of education in Monaco. It should also be noted that almost 80% of those passing the baccalaureate obtained a merit.
As regards the vocational pathway, there was a 100% pass rate for the two Management Science and Technology sections, with the same performance achieved by the Hotel section, and the three hotel, industrial and service sections of the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monaco.

These results are excellent and they motivate my team and I even more to continue to aim for higher quality for our courses. Our students’ success is my objective. And it is also my greatest reward.