“In France we are very hard on our education system,” said Eric Charbonnier from the outset during a roundtable discussion on education in the Senate. OECD lead analyst Eric Charbonnier was invited to speak on rFrance’s results in the latest international rankings. An exercise carried out within the framework of the Education Agora organized in the Cloister around a goal: “Rebuilding the school of tomorrow”.
An agora initiated by the President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, and the President of the Committee on Culture, Education and Communication, Laurent Lafon. The senator recalled this in the preamble to the talks: “In France, despite the above-average national spending of OECD countries, the performance of the school system tends to deteriorate, especially among disadvantaged young people.”
In fact, according to the latest PISA ranking for 2018, France ranks 20th and 26th out of 79 countries in OECD surveys. Of the 36 OECD countries in 2018, France ranks 15th and 21st (on the same level as Germany).
“We see a decrease in the proportion of good students and an increase in the proportion of students who fail in school”
“This PISA study informs us that the average performance of students is precisely the average of OECD countries, it is not so catastrophic when we look at this overview,” said Eric Charbonnier. On the other hand, France stands out with a very high level of inequality: “For 20 years, France has been part of the group of the most unequal countries.” Even worse, according to the OECD analyst, “we see a decrease in the percentage of good students and an increase in the percentage of students who fail in school. Our school system has become more dichotomous. “
The observation is not new but it is supported here. Eric Charbonnier points out that these inequalities create specific difficulties. “France is one of the countries where leaving without a degree has more consequences for the employability of young people,” he insists. As a good analyst, he gives figures. Today, a young person from disadvantaged backgrounds is five times more likely to be among low-achieving students and equally likely to be on career paths. Sectors in which very little has been invested and which too often make it difficult to find work.
The reform of the teaching profession: the key to a successful reform
A note of hope, Eric Charbonnier believes that “France has realized that it must invest to fight inequality and invest in the right place.” This translates into a more targeted investment at the first levels of education, at the elementary level where everything is at stake. The analyst considers that: “The key is to have a real debate about the teaching profession.”
A poll conducted by the CSA and commissioned by the Senate in the framework of this Agora insists on this same point. Only 25% of teachers are satisfied with the recognition of their efforts and skills. Only 22% of their remuneration is raised there (see our document). The centrist senator, Annick Billon, also underlined the crisis that this profession is experiencing and points to the increase in resignations “of the order of 40% in five years in the first degree”.
Author of a report on the teaching of mathematics, the deputy Cédric Villani joins the analyst on the subject of teacher training. He noted that the training of primary school teachers was questionable to the extent that most of them had followed a literary background. An essential issue in the face of the observation that he himself describes as “calamitous”. For Cédric Villani, the country is “sunk in terms of its performance in primary, university, high school in the field of mathematical notions.”
“Giving up teaching our language to our students is giving up teaching them to think”
The level of French students in mathematics is as worrying as the level of mastery of the French language. It is shared by Jean Côme Chalamon, associate professor of philosophy at the priority institutes of the Créteil academy. “I have the impression that we have given up teaching French to our students,” says the teacher. He observes this “inequality in the language” in front of his final year students, some of whom, he assures us, complain that they have not already seen their mistakes in French corrected in their copies. “Giving up teaching our language to our students is giving up teaching them to think,” he insists.
However, France is the country that spends the most hours on reading comprehension in primary school, according to the OECD analyst. It proves that the issue of national education reform will be very complex and one of the big issues of this presidential campaign.