Marseille, a large-scale laboratory for the “school of the future”

It is the mayor of the city, Benoît Payan, who says it: “We are creating something unique in Marseille. With the President of the Republic we do not support each other, but we have a common interest. But what has happened since the announcement, on September 2, of the city’s experimental schools that, according to Emmanuel Macron, would benefit from an “adapted educational project”, a veritable “laboratory of freedoms and resources”?

The 50 schools targeted are ultimately 59. “Twenty are not in priority education and are even located in privileged areas”, regrets Virginie Akliouat of the SNUipp-FSU. “It was not the intention to set them up only in priority neighborhoods,” replied Cathy Racon-Bouzon, outgoing MP and member of parliament for the presidential majority.

2.5 million euros

In order to “learn differently”, these schools have been given a global envelope of 2.5 million euros since January. So far, 360,000 euros has been paid out. At the Rectorate of Marseille, we speak of a “progressive and differentiated effort”, across the projects. And above all: “we started from the bottom up, which surprised at the beginning in National Education”, continues Christian Abrard.

“Sometimes, with the best will in the world, when we try to spend months and months on national level consultation, we articulate billions and then it takes months to come down so it’s the same everywhere on the ground, folks. are frustrated,” justified Emmanuel Macron, who said he wanted to “invert the pyramid” – “a cultural revolution”.

The money is paid to schools to buy equipment or pay speakers, for example. At the Menpenti school, where the head of state attended, two mathematical laboratories are being set up, one for the kindergarten and the other for the neighboring primary school. National Education funds equipment, educational projects or training for teachers, and City Hall has been working to renovate a room turned “laboratory” where students practice math games.

“The idea is to undermine the determinism that makes some children or their parents think they are not made for math,” the school principal argues. Teachers, who are still “tinkering”, would like more resources to take their students there more often. Those responsible for extracurricular activities advocate training for tutors, for “a common mathematical culture”, with no boundaries between school and extracurricular time.

Changing pedagogical practices

In other schools, experiments combine learning to read and practice music, offer English lessons to parents to get them to school, or even partnerships with artists. The launch of the projects of the 59 schools should be generalized before September. The schools are organized by theme (math; French; sports; art, culture and music; sustainable development; flexible classrooms) with chairs and tables on wheels and work in workshops to change teaching practices.

These experimental schools have also benefited from additional funding, with layoffs to give school principals and teachers time to carry out their project – while elsewhere there is a dire shortage of replacements, the SNUipp criticizes. Since January, teachers are trained outside school hours, on Wednesday mornings, and bonuses are awarded for the extra time spent on the project.

But what about the effects on students? At the Menpenti school, the teachers speak of students who enjoy going to the math lab and who learn “to make mistakes, changing the relationship with mistakes”. At SNUipp, we fear the following: “The need to have results” such as for the nationwide student assessments, is regularly criticized. Evaluations that the head of state says privately that he is ready to change, when a teacher confides in him that they are not really helping him in the exercise of his profession.

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