“The reform of the Gymnasium must be evaluated”

9:02 am, March 25, 2022

He is the “Mr. Pisa” in France. Eric Charbonnier, expert on education within the OECD and thus co-responsible for the International Program for the Monitoring of Student Achievement (Pisa), is best placed to analyze the results of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year tenure in relation to education. Duplication of teaching in the priority education network, reform of the high school diploma, education of students with disabilities, place of mathematics, teachers’ compensation … For the JDD, he decodes the actions of the President and underlines the limitations of some of his reforms.

How do you assess the educational record of the five-year term?
Rather positive in particular with the duplication of CP, CE1 and Grande Section in a priority educational network that makes it possible to fight school failure. International studies show that inequalities start at a young age. France has long underinvested in primary education: spending per student is 9% below the OECD average in primary school but 30% higher in secondary school. This device therefore makes it possible to compensate a little. The latest study, published in September 2021, shows an improvement in the mathematics level of students in focus classes, particularly at CP, less so at CE1, and a slight improvement in reading comprehension. Keeping schools open as much as possible is also a good thing to avoid widening inequalities.

France is one of the OECD countries that gives the most homework

How do students get along at the university?
Personalized help for students with the homework system is a step in the right direction: France is one of the OECD countries that gives the most homework. It will be necessary to maintain this support and for teachers to contribute more and be rewarded for it. That being said, college remains the blind spot of this five-year tenure. But here the inequalities are getting worse. It is not about questioning the individual college. Those that have done so, like Germany and Switzerland, are now trying to rebuild bridges between general and vocational education. But why don’t the companies come to present the crafts in the companies? At the moment the only contact is the third stage. In many countries there is more interest in sustainable development, current issues…

Also read – New High School Diploma: The results of a reform between clicks and hiccups

Is High School Graduation Reform a Good Thing?
The conduct of the major oral hearing is positive. This makes it possible to get out of the classical disciplines and develop a very useful skill in the 21st century. Successful European education systems such as Finland, Estonia and Canada attach great importance to this. For the rest, France has followed what is being done elsewhere. Continuous assessment is part of student marking in almost all OECD countries. This reform was necessary, but its implementation leaves much to be desired.

What is the problem?
Everyone is a little lost. Should have given more time. There we wade a little. Schools are struggling to support their students. teachers to adapt to the changes. Higher education courses to clarify their selection method. And the health crisis did not help. Whether the higher education reform has led to more inequality must be evaluated. We can already say that there is a need to improve the continuous control and the orientation of the students.

The “future” return of math to the common core in high school is therefore a good thing, even if we could have saved ourselves this back and forth

Should we eliminate parcoursup, as some presidential candidates have suggested?
The platform offers the possibility to choose from a dozen university courses. It works no worse than the old one and is much easier to use. But it can lead to inequalities. For example when writing cover letters: some students are supported by their parents, others have to be left to their own devices. In order to ensure equal opportunities, we really need to help students in all phases of the course. School leaders have a key role to play in this.

Has the importance of mathematics declined?
Clearly! For 20 years, the math level of our students has been falling. This is particularly noticeable in elementary school. The “future” return of mathematics to the common core at the Lycée is therefore a good thing, even if we could have avoided this back and forth. However, reflection on mathematics teaching needs to be extended to include science and digital courses. We need to whet the appetite for these sectors so that girls in particular get more involved. Also raise the level. The PISA surveys show that the science level of 15-year-old French students is at an average level in both 2006 and 2015, so there is still room for improvement.

Also read – Is illiteracy a black spot in the French education system, as Valérie Pécresse claims?

Has the government succeeded in implementing inclusive schooling?
It depends on how you define inclusion. In the Nordic countries, which are exemplary in this area, all children have access to school. In Finland, for example, everyone benefits from individual help to progress at their own pace. In France we’re trying, but we’re short on staff. The Nordic model is difficult to implement here: programs are heavy, classes are full, days are very tight and grades count for a lot. Our teachers often feel powerless when dealing with students with special educational needs. The last TALIS survey from 2018 also showed a need for further training.

There have been no strong announcements about the teaching profession, the purchasing power of the profession has not improved

What was missing from this quinquennium?
There were no strong announcements about the teaching profession. However, the expectation was very high. The Minister slightly upgraded new teachers and slightly more those from the most disadvantaged areas. But overall, the purchasing power of the profession has not improved. In 2020, a starter still earned 9% less than the OECD average and 20% less after fifteen years of service. Several appointments were missed, partly for health reasons: the pension reform, the Grenelle de l’Education… As in all European countries, the profession has become less attractive. This is even more pronounced in France: according to the 2018 TALIS study, only 7% of French teachers believe they are considered appropriate by society, compared to 26% on average across OECD countries.

Also Read – Early School Leaving: Why Rural Students Are Disadvantaged

How can the current tensions be explained?
The health crisis has created tensions between teachers and education ministers in many countries. As France has kept these schools more open, they have been stronger at home. Crisis management was probably not ideal either. France remains a very centralized country, it would have needed more flexibility. As well as better coordination with the health sector: if teachers had prioritized vaccines, timely mask distribution, more consistent testing policies, things would have gone better. One thing is certain: we have never had such divisive debates in the world of education.

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