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The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Catholicism: ideological and institutional constraints on system change in English and French primary schooling

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ABSTRACT Research studies have shown clear and persistent differences between the French and English systems of education. Given that England and France are in many ways very similar societies, sharing a European heritage, of approximately the same population profile, with comparable levels of socioeconomic and technological development and facing the same financial imperatives in a global market, the question arises as to why their educational arrangements should be so different. In this paper it is argued that the differences arise out of deeply embedded cultural traditions through which contrasting fundamental value orientations are mediated and that these fundamental value orientations can be traced back to and now represent secularised educational versions of French Catholicism and English Protestantism. Evidence is put forward to suggest that structures of consciousness and forms of social organisation which originally developed in an ecclesiastical context for religious purposes have been transformed over time into secular equivalents for educational and economic purposes and that it is in the continuing societal commitments to the two dissimilar sets of underpinning moral values that an explanation for the observable contrasts between French and English primary education needs to be sought.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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