Education: Candidates pile promises, but where do they find the funding?

Emmanuel Macron noted that education was an issue tended to be neglected by his competitors, apart from upgrading teachers’ salaries, and made it one of the priority themes of his (late) entry into the campaign. With a clear axis: bringing schools closer to companies, in particular through a comprehensive reform of the vocational high school. Likewise, he plans to devote half a day a week to crafts in college. Very well. But the ills our education system suffers are massive and would require a floor-to-ceiling makeover. Here are three issues that should be the focus of concern.

Increase the value of the profession and wages

It’s an open secret: In the science subjects, the recruitment of teachers has fallen dramatically. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of students in the Capes of Mathematics increased from 2771 to 1946. Due to a lack of applicants, the National Education had to reduce its expectations of the competition (the average was 8 out of 20 in 2020) to recruit who the better able to fill vacancies.

The solution? Make careers more attractive by increasing wages. “The Grenelle de l’éducation has taken a first step in this direction, but the issue of increases remains and deserves the candidates’ full attention,” explains Bruno Bobkiewicz, Secretary General of the SNPDEN (National Union of Management Staff of the National Education). . With a staff of 859,000 teachers, the amounts to be estimated are considerable. Most candidates are willing to line up the billions without specifying where to find them.

Anne Hidalgo was the first to propose doubling teachers’ salaries in September 2021. Faced with outcry from her opponents, the socialist candidate downgraded her copy. She now expects an increase of 35 percent and promises school teachers from 1700 euros net to 2300 euros a month to start their career. According to the Ifrap Foundation, a think tank in charge of evaluating public policies, this measure would cost 14 billion euros by 2027.

Yannick Jadot advocates a 20 percent increase over the five-year term. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is even more greedy: catching up on the index point “frozen for ten years” and increasing wages by 30%, 15% immediately, 15% after negotiations with the unions. Cost of the operation: 17 billion euros over five years. A bill he would fund by scrapping the subsidies he says private education receives “additionally” from local governments. As for Marine Le Pen, she’s offering a 3% annual increase over five years.

In fact, French teachers are among the lowest paid in Europe. But beware of comparisons. According to the Eurydice network, a mid-career French teacher certainly earns 33% less than their German-speaking counterpart, but “in secondary education, German teachers work between 23 and 26 hours a week, compared to an average of 18 hours here. . Germans offer 40 weeks of tuition a year, compared to 36 in France.

Raise the level in math urgently

The international rankings (Timss and Pisa) follow and look the same: the math level of the little French has collapsed. What a pity in the land of Poincaré and Alexandre Grothendieck! The insufficient training of primary school teachers, mostly from the humanities or social sciences, also helps. Because the difficulties start with the CP and intensify over the course of the school years. In 2020, according to the Timss ranking, French college students found themselves at the bottom of the field, even finishing second to last ahead of Chile. The 2019 high school diploma reform didn’t help by making first-year math optional, with fewer and fewer students, especially girls, being tempted by the option.

Faced with this alarming observation, Jean-Michel Blanquer backtracked and announced a possible return of mathematics to the common core. “We see this drop in level when entering our schools. We need to modernize,” warns Jacques Fayolle, President of the CDEFI (Conference of Principals of French Engineering Schools).

To repair the damage, Valérie Pécresse wants to get to the root of the problem by adding one hour of math a week in primary school and two hours of French on the side. Same fight for Marine Le Pen, who wants to add an hour to schoolchildren’s days. Question of quantity or quality? “Are the maths we’re teaching today the ones we’re going to need?” asks Jacques Fayolle. In the age of data and artificial intelligence, the question arises.

Several candidates are calling for a return to basics and the good old school. Eric Zemmour is committed to restoring the reds, the blouse in elementary school, the old baccalaureate series (Marine Le Pen also wants to abolish the baccalaureate reform) and the graduation at the end of elementary school… Mélenchon wants to return to classes with 19 students. “It is necessary, above all, to personalize the courses and give the institutions the autonomy to propose alternative training offers and allow the students to succeed,” says Bruno Bobkiewicz. Valérie Pécresse ventures down this path. She wants to create public institutions under contract, inspired by American “charter schools” where teachers, parents and leaders of institutions have the freedom to determine an innovative educational project. His goal: 10% of the companies using this model by the end of the five-year period.

Restoring the university’s reputation

All left-wing candidates want to delete the parcoursup. This will not solve the blatant shortage of funds at universities! 15 years after the LRU (University Freedoms and Responsibilities Act) our universities still suffer from chronic underfunding. With 20% more students in ten years and only 10% more budget, universities are no longer a success model.

In 2020, only 2.5% of French researchers were cited in international publications, compared to 41.5% of Americans. The same detachment at the level of funds allocated to students. While in all OECD countries average expenditure per student increased by 8% between 2010 and 2016, in France it decreased by 5% over the same period. Today the state spends 10110 euros per year for a university student. That is 7% less than in 2009.

These poor results have reignited debate about further reform of the system. Eric Zemmour proposes returning to state control of universities, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, bringing R&D expenditure to 3% of GDP and granting 8000 additional doctoral scholarships per year. As for Emmanuel Macron, who rejected his wish, expressed in January, to increase enrollment fees at universities, he cites the possibility for these institutions to offer paid professional training. Enough to round out the end of the month, but still not to fund the additional €30 billion that the Institut Montaigne says universities and research would need to function properly.

The level of French students is not only falling in the natural sciences

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Average annual salary of elementary school teachers. France has lost places in the Pisa ranking. Although it remains the leader in the top quartile, it lags far behind China (591 points in math and 590 in science) and Singapore (569 in math and 551 in science), which have held the top two spots for several years. Every three years, the PISA ranking assesses the level of 600,000 15-year-old students internationally in three subjects. Since the 2000s, the grades of young French people have been in free fall: minus 12 points in writing, minus 22 points in mathematics and minus 7 points in science.

Teachers are among the worst paid in Europe

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