an innovative and sophisticated pedagogy in priority neighborhoods

“No creativity without rigor, no rigor without creativity”said Pierre Faure. A philosophy that encapsulates the spirit of the schools of the Espérance suburbs network, where pedagogy is considered both an art and a science. Present today mainly in 17 priority neighborhoods in France, these schools successfully cultivate excellence: for several years their results have been better than those observed in the priority educational networks. A success based on constant research and experimentation with the best learning methods, combined with great pragmatism in the choice of tools.

Bringing together and preserving favorable conditions

A maximum of fifteen students per class: That’s the Esperance Suburbs’ answer to the inevitable question of numbers, a perennial friction in education debates. A rare but essential luxury that the network wants to preserve, to give everyone the place and time they deserve. These needs are in fact at the heart of the network’s pedagogical project, inspired in particular by the already mentioned figure of the pedagogue Pierre Faure and his personalized teaching approach. To this must be added the methods of Maria Montessori, based on adapting the lessons to the child, their autonomy and the preservation of a peaceful learning environment.

The small number is not only a driving force for personal success but also for group cohesion, but also favors a sensitive approach that speaks the language. Far removed from overly abstract and conceptual pedagogies, dealing with objects and teaching aids is particularly favored in kindergarten and elementary school classes. It accompanies essential learning to make the connection between concrete realities and theoretical knowledge, thus promoting a global awakening.

Proven methods and avant-garde choices

To ensure the transmission of the common core competences defined by the National Education, non-contractual institutions benefit from the educational freedom that allows them to opt for innovative methods. The initiators of the Espérance Suburbs network have set themselves the task of combating the scourge of school failure in difficult districts and wanted to get straight to the point in their educational decisions: whether alternative or more traditional, the methods chosen are all proven and recognized for their excellent results.

For example, the method used in the city-state of Singapore was chosen for mathematics lessons. Relatively little publicised, it has nevertheless proven its effectiveness by enabling young Singaporeans to climb the podium of international rankings for many years.

Surprising at first glance, this choice bears fruit if one judges from the results in mathematics of the students of the network of suburbs of Espérance, which are above the national average at the time of entering CE1. So much so that this avant-garde choice could be emulated: while the Singapore method had already been at work in the network’s facilities for several years, world-renowned mathematicians Cédric Villani (Fields Medal 2010) and Charles Torossian underscored its relevance in the 21st century Recommendations for the teaching of mathematics presented to the Minister of National Education in 2018.

popular education
Credits: Esperance Banlieues
popular education
Credits: Esperance Banlieues

Experienced teachers and a scientific council keeping an eye on the grain

The teaching staff of the Espérance suburban institutions is rich in diversity. The youngest, from different backgrounds, know how to breathe new life into changes in society and local realities. And to apply best practices, they can now count on the support of 6 “reference teachers”: they have been appointed to identify and test the best practices to pass them on to their peers in feedback and training sessions. Finally, teachers must carefully monitor students’ progress and their teaching, as recommended in the network’s education brochure.

In order to establish the quality and consistency of the educational innovations implemented in its facilities, the network of suburbs of Espérance also relies on a particularly demanding Scientific Council. This body is made up of figures recognized for their expertise in the field of education, such as Claude Thélot, former President of the High Council for School Evaluation, which reports to the Minister of Education.National Education, Philippe d’Iribane, mining engineer and research director at the CNRS, or Jean-Marie Petitclerc, founder of the Le Valdocco association, which specializes in crime prevention and professional integration in housing estates. This scientific council examines the innovations and directions of the educational project through the screen of a rigorous reference system and advises the network’s actors on best practices.

Learning with doers: innovative partnerships

What could be more obvious than to discover science with those who put it into practice every day in the professional world? As obvious as it may seem, such an initiative is not common. However, it is the chance that several classes of the Espérance suburban network have had as part of a partnership with the BASF group. Thanks to educational materials and laboratory equipment provided by the company, the young Kid’s Lab participants were able to discover the role of vitamins in the coloring and nutritional value of fruit and vegetables through several fun experiments. A way to learn by doing, discovering gestures and tools commonly used by professionals in the sector. The operation is generalized to the entire network.

For the suburbs of Espérance, this type of partnership is an opportunity to establish links with the players in the professional world in the areas in which it operates, thereby concretely contributing to their cohesion. It is also an opportunity to enrich the educational offer by decoupling the school and bringing underexplored knowledge and know-how within the reach of children. That’s the spirit of the network’s partnership with Magic Makers, which introduces children to computer code and programming.

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