The school must reverse its priorities

“At a time when school policy may be moving in new directions, let’s hope that this policy does not look at the school from above, through what makes the French school excellence, but from below, through where the school fails.” President of ATD Fourth World, Marie Aleth Grard, outlines ways to develop the school.

3 million poor children in school

We all see it, our society is divided, broken; the vast majority of children discover the world through the prism of their social environment. Social diversity is practically non-existent. Yet at ATD Fourth World we want to believe in the possibilities so that all children (from all walks of life) can develop their intelligence equally in the school of our country. So what to do? What must we do ?

Eradicating extreme poverty is a vital goal to build a society at peace with itself. It is a battle to be fought, with the School on the front line.

What future in the school system for the 3 million children from families living below the poverty line? They experience school very hard, because they are humiliated, because they are deprived of many of their rights, too often feeling excluded from knowledge that is meant for everyone. How can they build a future as full citizens and workers, these 100,000 young people who leave school every year without a diploma? It can’t go on any longer, we can’t let these thousands of young people leave the school system every year without a diploma, without registration anywhere, without a future.

Speaking at a Fourth World People’s University, a man said, “We’re not made to fit in huts. We are differentiated like in filing cabinets, and that is also a way of dehumanizing ourselves. A person does not fit in a filing cabinet”.

Does the school categorize children from families in poverty? Studies and statistics answer this question:

• In France, the link between social background and academic success has been strengthened in recent years, according to international studies.

• DEPP statistics clearly show the massive preponderance of disadvantaged backgrounds in adapted education (SEGPAs for example) and in specialized education (ULIS, ITEP, etc.). Many Fourth World activists (adults with experience of extreme poverty and activists for their own environment within ATD QM) have gone through these channels. Do they show the slightest intellectual limit? Obviously not!

• How many children from very disadvantaged backgrounds end up in general and technological secondary schools? How many go on to higher education? Let’s search well…

This sighting does not date from today. Until when does it have to be? These are wasted human lives, wealth that society deprives itself. This is a deep injustice.

Take care of teachers

At a time when school policy may be moving in new directions, let’s hope that this policy does not look at the school from above, through what makes the French school’s excellence, but from below, through where the school fails.

Let’s put it straight: if the school wants to take care of the most excluded and give them access to general knowledge and a real job, it must first take care of its teachers. For some time now we have felt among teachers, both primary and secondary, a sense of degradation, of disregard for their professional knowledge, of fatigue in the face of all kinds of guidelines, often far removed from the reality of class and who the students are . We must give this wonderful profession the attention it deserves and promote the professional skills needed to practice it. It is not enough to have university knowledge to teach humanely, with respect for every student. The teachers are aware of this and demand an initial and continuing education worthy of the name, which is essential if we want a deep evolution of the school.

change school

How should the school evolve? The many works of the ATD Fourth World Movement in the field of school have always been done by listening first and foremost to those who have been through school painfully or whose children are currently undergoing what they have experienced themselves. Here are some points that emerge in what they express most often:

• They all believe in a school that will enable their child to build a better life than theirs, despite their personal journey of failure.

• They want teachers who take the time to listen to students. When difficulties arise, they want us to take the time to listen to the child and his parents before deciding on an orientation, to look for the origin of these difficulties, to appreciate the child, to ‘we say it’ not too fast’ in a box.

• They want a school where they feel welcome as parents, fully recognized as responsible for their child. They are indeed the first educators of their children. They want a school where the future of their child is decided together with them, in a relationship of trust.

• They want their child’s time to be respected. “I know, they often say, the teacher has a program to do. But, they add, is this a reason to abandon those who struggle the most? Living in extreme poverty really affects children from a young age, school is often their first place of socialization. But as Grégoire Borst (director of the Lapsyde at the Sorbonne) says: “the real challenge, the absolute challenge, is to provide a specific environment for children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, by setting the package on pedagogies adapted to their shift work. certain skills. Again, I’ll come back to it, it’s just a shift, it’s not an impossibility to learn. Poverty cannot be combated with drugs. It is combated with pedagogies. And so the challenge is: how are we going to try out the new pedagogy of tomorrow? †

• They themselves regret not having enjoyed learning, sometimes only later, in adult education (including learning to read and write). They want their children to enjoy going to school. They know better than anyone that accessing knowledge can be a difficult path, but on this path they want teachers to guide and guide them. They refuse a school that abandons children along the way.

The changes expected in the school are probably not primarily a matter of budget and billions of euros, although the question of resources should certainly not be neglected. We don’t want to imply that resources don’t matter. But all the resources in the world will not change anything without a profound change in the educational function. It is not enough to ordain the school of benevolence. Teachers should be given the opportunity to be the daily players in this benevolence, by stating as the basic tenet of their profession that every child can learn and that they should always seek in every student the human wealth that he himself has so much. hard to show. There should no longer be a student in any class from whom nothing is expected.

Educational developments

This presupposes profound pedagogical changes. Cooperative pedagogies don’t do everything, but they do a lot! Instead of talking about it for decades, what are we waiting for to start a progressive dissemination, adapted to each class, of what has long been carried out by pedagogical movements that have proven their worth.

This presupposes that teachers regain full responsibility for the future of their students without being subject to global guidelines that cannot be adapted to all children.

This means that teachers can compare their practices, analyze them with competent professionals, take a step back. Why is it that the teaching profession is one of the rare relational professions for which practical analysis does not exist?

This assumes that the students, and especially those who have the most difficulty understanding the school, feel that they have teachers in front of them who work together and work as a team for the well-being of each student. Let’s think, for example, of the child of CM2 whose transition to the 6th grade is difficult and who suddenly goes from a master or a mistress to a dozen teachers, each with their own requirements.

This assumes that from the start of his practice, a novice teacher feels integrated into a team that allows him to reflect, share his difficulties and feel confident.

This assumes that the teaching function is not limited to attending classes. Informal meeting times with students, especially those most in trouble, are essential. Many teachers know this well and put it into practice. Perhaps it should be taken into account in what is officially the heart of the business.

Since 2013, the inclusive school has been enshrined in law. This is a great prospect if we are willing to remember that the inclusive school is not content with admitting the child with special educational needs into its ranks, but agrees to empower itself and transform itself so that this child grows and learn with everyone else. Understanding the child growing up in a family in a situation of great poverty, understanding the complexities of the links between the school and his family, discovering the hidden dimensions of poverty that affect this child’s life, this is what we must allow teachers so that they are actors in a really inclusive school. This prevents many children from underprivileged families, sometimes very early at the end of kindergarten, from being led to sectors where they do not need to be.

Yes, the school has great prospects if we want to reverse the priorities: care for the weakest. Some might say it’s the “race to the bottom”. no ! It means building, at school, with all children and young people, a more just society.

Marie Aleth Grard

Leave a Comment