“Learning by doing in the service of people you don’t know”

The cross : How do you see our school system on the eve of the presidential elections?

Marie Trellu-Kane: A mixed look. There is the strength of a valuable public service that needs to be consolidated. But also a system that still generates many school dropouts, because every year more than 90,000 young people leave school without a qualification. Many have lost confidence in themselves and in society as a result, sometimes even broken. The PISA study, which compares the performance of 15-year-olds every three years, shows that our system produces large inequalities without generating a thirst for knowledge.

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Why is?

MT-K. : This failure is the result of several factors, such as the density of the programs and the standardization of the courses, as well as the lack of diversity within the institutions resulting from the social segregation of the areas. But it can also be explained by a cultural factor that goes well beyond school. We French are easily criticized. This is undoubtedly the opposite of one of our characteristics, the claim. Nevertheless, we train future adults who do not dare to assert themselves or commit themselves. Unlike what I’ve observed in the United States, where I was able to complete part of my degree, we don’t provide a sufficiently positive education.

What do you mean by that ?

MT-K. : Even if he doesn’t fit the bill, every child has qualities that deserve to be highlighted. This requires a more personal approach that is probably easier to announce than implement in very busy classes. And more generally, it’s important to cultivate the qualities essential to bouncing back from failure, such as optimism, curiosity, teamwork, communication, and a sense of community goodness. Transversal skills that young people will need more than ever in a world where there is unlikely to be a lifetime of employment. The education system could develop them through active pedagogy that is underappreciated. But these qualities are also acquired outside, in the extension of the classroom. The school’s openness to its surroundings offers part of the solution.

Does this mean that our society too often looks at education exclusively from the school perspective?

MT-K. : When we founded Unis-Cité in 1994, our belief was that young people lacked the time to concretely serve the general interest, learn by acting in the service of people we don’t know, work as a team in diversity and blending . A structural period of non-formal education that allows the development of empathy and brotherhood. This is how community service came into being, which I believe should be indispensable and complementary to school. In 2020, 132,000 young people benefited from this program. For 2021, the authorities had promised to increase this number to 200,000, in reality the number of places actually funded by the state is around 100,000. In an age group of 800,000 people…

Should community service be made compulsory?

MT-K. : For me, community service is part of everyone’s education. Every young person between the ages of 16 and 30 should treat themselves to this time of commitment. Participating in the reception of refugees, becoming an energy savings ambassador or helping families with disabled children while receiving compensation… This experience can allow a dropout to revitalize themselves by experiencing an all-important sense of usefulness. After leaving civilian service, every second person takes up further training or dual training. Community service can also offer a student a break, help them take a step back, put the diploma race on hold. But I don’t think it should be mandatory. Basically it should be like the bac. Nothing forces you to pass it. But we do everything so that as many young people as possible can acquire them.

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However, some training courses, on Parcoursup, prefer high school graduates to the detriment of young people who, for example, have decided to do community service directly after high school…

MT-K. : This is one of Parcoursup’s fundamental flaws. It is planned that young people will be able to complete a gap year. However, they must first enroll at a university before they can apply for a one-year postponement of the start of their studies. It’s absurd. The year of community service gives you the opportunity to think about what meaning you want to give your life and what direction you want to give it.

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