The definite article might lead one to believe that The École stands alone (we are pretty unique after all) whereas we are, in fact, a member of several educational networks. Today, I would like to talk to you about two of them: the AEFE (Agency for French Education Abroad) and the MLF (French Non-Denominational Mission).
The École is accredited by the AEFE, which is the agency of the French government that is responsible for overseeing more than 500 French schools abroad (i.e. outside of France). It is the world’s largest educational network. Contrary to popular perception, accredited French schools are not split into different categories. All schools are accredited equally by the AEFE for teaching the French National Curriculum as laid out by the French Ministry of Education. It’s not a case of the Lycées français on one side and all the others on the other; we are all accredited to the same degree. The AEFE offers various means of support to its members: pedagogical support (e.g. there is a French school inspector for North America based in Ottawa), financial support (through the allocation of financial assistance to some of our French families), and also logistical support (enabling us to recruit certified teachers from France on secondment).
The second network is the MLF or Mission laïque française, which could be translated as the French Non-Denominational Mission, an association of more than 100 schools around the world, whose objective is to support French schools in what they do. While it may seem that the goals of the AEFE and the MLF overlap, in reality, they are complementary. The MLF has a less traditional, more innovative approach to education and it offers an array of resources that assist us in our daily school life. The MLF’s Pedagogical Service provides expertise and practical advice in fields such as bilingual education and professional development. Throughout the school year, the MLF proposes exceptionally ambitious workshops and PD sessions that are tailored to its members’ needs (Benoît is well versed on the subject—he did a school leadership university course with them last year!). At The École, we are particularly appreciative of the opportunities the MLF gives us to work with French and American experts in the field of teacher training, such as Catherine Cohen who was with us last week, and Ellen Burge who visited The École a few months ago.
Our dual partnerships with the MLF and the AEFE are invaluable for The École and we are one of the lucky few to have this opportunity. Our Middle School is the only middle school in New York to be a member of both networks. To my mind, it is symbolic of our identity and our energy. We are a school that knows how to make the most of the French education system, but we are also one that draws inspiration from elsewhere and is not afraid to imagine, innovate, and implement new, coherent, and complex methods and approaches to education, in the best interests of our students.
The reason why I chose today to talk to you about our partnerships with the AEFE and MLF is that I am be leaving for Morocco tonight to attend the annual MLF Global Conference. It’s been more than two years since the heads of MLF schools were last able to meet in person. Even if no man is an island, it’s been hard not to feel isolated over the past 24 months. I have to admit, it’s also been getting harder and harder to emerge from that isolation and to connect with colleagues via Zoom. I am therefore really looking forward to attending the conference and to participating in the different workshops and seminars on the agenda. I will be back (if I don’t test positive while I am there…) on Thursday, May 12.