Macron and the “inevitable” privatization of the school

For Emmanuel Macron, the evolution of the school is clearly a priority. After his visit to Marseille on June 2, he returned to the school issue in an interview published by the regional press on June 3. Presented as a “cultural revolution” for the school with the help of a “national reorganization”, the Macronian reform should be bigger than it seemed. With the re-election of E Macron, unless there is a surprise in the parliamentary elections, France will join the movement leading western countries towards an accelerated privatization of education systems.

Freedom, flexibility

Freedom, flexibility: E Macron repeated these words about the school on June 2 in Marseille. “When I say we invert the pyramid… that’s the cultural revolution. The word was spoken at the beginning of our roundtable, it’s a cultural revolution,” he repeated on June 2. He also speaks of “national reorganization”. Words that could have made his minister react. But everyone could see on June 2 that the real pastor lives in the Elysée…

What do we know about this cultural revolution? E Macron wants to “generalize” the Marseille experiment. He defines it that way. First of all, more freedom: “teachers who are freer… heads of institutions more free to propose, to innovate… The possibility for directors of institutions (sic) to ensure that we share a project that he carries ​and wherever there is more freedom that we will try to give to teachers”.

The new pact

This project is linked to the “new pact” for teachers for which it sets the deadline for the start of the 2023 school year. In addition to an (undefined) increase for all teachers, E Macron speaks of a revaluation in connection with the acceptance of the new treaty. He himself brings this pact closer to the Marseille experiment. In Marseille, the €40,000 allocated to experimental schools includes part of the staff remuneration in the form of overtime hours to monitor the project and dismissal of management. This is linked to the pedagogical autonomy of the school and to the new convention that links it to experimentation.

It is clearly this system that constitutes the heralded “cultural revolution” for Macron. Where today there is a national education system with national rules, the president wants to multiply the contracts that bind each school to the state and its local environment.

This development goes far beyond the question of the “new pact”. As part of this “pact”, the new permanent teachers and the teachers who return there will accept the separation between the competition and gaining a position. As for the current private tutors, they will have to find an institution or school and submit to the authority of the head of the institution. It is in this regard that E Macron speaks of “flexibility”, a principle presented as a virtue. To tell the truth, they will have to submit to it more than in the private sector. Because in the private sector, the head teacher already has a lot to do with the management of his establishment. They will also accept the end of an identical fee. Any local contract can have its limitations and its fees, even if national benchmarks exist.

General contracting and termination of priority education

But the reform could be even greater. Following E Macron’s words, we would move from national management of schools and institutions to local management, with each school or institution under contract. It is the generalization of local contracts (CLA) that is being prepared. That is, the end of priority education.

We understand that the formula of the “cultural revolution” is not appropriated. For a national and centralized education system like the French system, what E Macron is proposing is a real break.

The inevitable privatization

But that’s no surprise. Emmanuel Macron’s program does not come out of the blue. In the French space, it is the one that JM Blanquer presented in “The school of life” and then in “The school of Tomorrow”. If we situate them in the world discourse about school, we recognize the principles of new public administration.

This brings me to the “inevitable” privatization. In 2020, the Revue Internationale d’éducation de Sèvres devoted a number to the privatization of education (n°82), coordinated by X Pons and T Chevallier. For the directors of this issue, the privatization of the school in western countries is already well advanced. We can mention the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, England (where the current administration wants to end what remains of public schools), Finland, Australia and Chile.

In France, since 2017, the government has allowed the Institut Montaigne and its pedagogical department The choice of school to multiply initiatives with the support of the Ministry. Indeed, because of them, a different view of a teacher’s career has become commonplace. And now the government has miraculously broken the recruiting competitions and attractiveness of the teaching profession, giving a new impetus to the proliferation of indentured servants.

Which brakes?

The Revue de Sèvres highlighted two obstacles to this “inevitable” privatization. First the bad school results. The new system tries to camouflage with batteries from tests. But they are there. In the general competition between schools, the differences are increasing. Everywhere, the application of the new rules is leading to a recruitment crisis and generalization of the emergency service. And the losers are the working class students. In England, private schools do not hesitate to close where schools are not profitable, leaving neighborhood children on the streets. In Sweden, where the new management has gone the furthest, the results have been so disastrous that even the OECD has recommended an overhaul of the system.

The other obstacle to this ‘cultural revolution’ will soon be measured. Xavier Pons quoted him in the Revue de Sèvres. “The French are for the free choice of school… But once they are faced with the choice, they ask themselves questions”. Because privatization threatens the commons, promotes the fragmentation of society, promotes values ​​that oppose collective values. The “new pact” is a “cultural revolution” insofar as it affects the very foundation of public education. They can still oppose this project in June 2022 to defend their school.

Francois Jarraud

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The school of life

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