A half century of IIEP Study Visits: a special thanks to Michèle Delaygue

28 June 2018


Michèle Delaygue with IIEP's Deputy Director Paul Coustère during the commencement ceremony of the 53rd Session of the Advanced Training Programme on 28 June 2018.

Sometimes, it is not where you are, but what you do that unites people. 

This is the sentiment that Michèle Delaygue, a French professor and long-standing member of the French National Commission for UNESCO, has felt over the past 50 years as she has played an integral role in bringing together educational planners and managers from across the globe to learn about the French education system first-hand.

“Despite the differences, the trainees feel at home, united by their profession, once they step into the education administration, classroom, or canteen,” Ms. Delaygue said in a recent interview with IIEP, as she reflected back on several decades of Study Visits organised in France.

The Study Visit is one of the annual highlights of IIEP’s Advanced Training Programme (ATP), which provides an inside look at how the French education system functions – from inside the classroom to the administration as a way to understand how policies are prioritized and implemented.

Ms. Delaygue has helped organize visits to all parts of France, from Brittany to Provence, from Lille to Grenoble, from Poitiers to Nice without forgetting Corsica. This is always done in close partnership between the French National Commission, IIEP and the regional education authorities across France.

“We try and get as close as possible to local population. To experience the reality of people is irreplaceable,” said Ms. Delaygue. “And the benefits are not just for those going on the Study Visits, but for those who receive the trainees: teachers, inspectors, administrators, and managers.” There is a lot of logistical preparation, and all of the actors involved in the Study Visit allocate significant time to preparing a presentation about their local system. 

Every year, the visit has typically taken on a specific theme, such as the quality of education, how the system caters to the diverse needs of all learners, including the disabled, or vocational education and the integration of youth into the labour market. A highlight for Ms. Delaygue has also been to observe the deep exchanges among trainees and hosts.

Ms. Delaygue says the problems in an education system – whether it be in France or a trainee’s home country – are often the same, but the solutions may be different. The Study Visit helps facilitate an exchange of ideas and experiences, which a trainee could perhaps later apply and adapt to their own context. The Study Visit also represents a special moment at the core of an intense year of training. While IIEP training combines theoretical and practical work in educational planning, the Study Visit is truly a unique moment for exchange among other educational professionals, and even students during school visits, to learn about how another country’s education system functions.

This year, IIEP celebrated the 50th Study Visit, which took place in late February 2018 in Nouvelle Aquitaine in the South West region of France. It also marked a half-century of working closely with Ms. Delaygue. For many IIEP colleagues who have had the honour of working with Ms. Delaygue, this has meant benefitting from her exuberance for cross-cultural exchange, her commitment to education and learning, and her profound organizational skills.

IIEP-UNESCO Director Suzanne Grant Lewis expressed special thanks to Ms. Delaygue for her important role in the Study Visits. “I wish to address special thanks, both on behalf of IIEP and myself personally, to Ms. Michèle Delaygue, from the French National Commission for UNESCO, for her exceptional support in organizing the visit. Ms Delaygue is a long-standing friend of IIEP who has led the organizing and participated actively in the ATP French Study Visit for 50 years.”