How autonomy can change the school

What if the time had come for radical change for National Education? No longer half measures, but a reform that breathes new life into it, that reverses the trend that a school no longer plays its role as a social elevator and in which everyone – students, teachers and parents – eventually starts to complain. Can we be satisfied with this “general discontent with regard to a matrix mission of the state, the formation of consciences”? Monique Canto-Sperber clearly answers no and proposes a “realistic autonomy of schools”. The former director of Normal Sup knows how much this term autonomy can make the mammoth jump, although it has already been taught by Emmanuel Macron. But she opts for iconoclasm by pleading for pedagogical, administrative and financial autonomy. A great freedom of movement, from kindergarten to secondary school, put under the sign of responsibility and contract.

The philosopher is unaware of our “cultural specificities” in the field of education: “a strong Republican emphasis and a pronounced penchant for equality”. Objections, whether ideological or revealing very real obstacles, will not otherwise indicate that the school card, the principle of non-competition between public institutions or even the organization of teaching staff cannot be interpreted in this way. abused.

But, says Monique Canto Sperber, isn’t it better to try, rather than stay in the back of the class with your students, when faced with the “degradation of performance” of the students and “the persistence of strong social inequality”, arms crossed around you? Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, which she has studied in depth, have done so. These precedents should make it possible to “determine which mistakes should not be made and identify the success factors”. In Europe, France is among the countries that grant the least autonomy to its school, especially at secondary level. However, this share of freedom is recognized as “a favorable condition for improving educational outcomes”.

“French restraint”. Indeed, the law on the autonomy of universities was born in 2007, but “the prospect of applying it to primary and secondary education (…) seems unacceptable, even intolerable”. An identical school for everyone, from the age of three: that is the dogma that “any break in uniformity threatens to cause inequality”. But isn’t inequality more likely to be found in “the harmful association that has been observed for decades between interventionism and uniformity in resources and inaction in the ability to achieve goals”?

Another obstacle is the inability of the state to trust, which prefers “the regime of prior regulation and finicky controls a priori to that of liability and sanctions a posteriori”.

And families in all this? More than 17% choose a private school for their child and the weight of private schools without a contract is increasing every year. But family preferences “are often seen as obstacles to equality”. As if “choosing the most favorable educational conditions for (his) children (…) is something criminal or the culpable expression of some interest”.

The role of the state must be redefined. Yes to his commitment to “mandatory, secular and free education, the basis of the civil pact, the precondition for the emancipation of citizens with regard to any religious or identity guardianship”. But should government decide on “pedagogical methods”, “classroom organization and school time” or “modes for the validation of knowledge acquisition”? That is not obvious, according to the report’s author.

“Internal Constitution”. The contract is central to the proposed reform. It is concluded between the institution, the State and the local authorities. It is “a kind of internal constitution that presents the elements that justify the autonomy, the objectives and the strategy to achieve them”. It takes into account “the social, economic, demographic, cultural and even linguistic particularities” of the establishment. “The room for maneuver of these autonomous schools (class groups, school rhythms, organization of levels and presentation of the program) is exercised within this predefined framework and is accompanied by managerial autonomy. An “educational ambition” is “developed jointly by school officials and a team of teachers”. Recruitment takes place on the basis of this contract. Ultimately, the teaching team must be “responsible for the results achieved”. It would thus be granted “greater administrative, financial and educational autonomy, while preserving an essential role for the state in the conclusion of these contracts and in the sanction of their disrespect”.

Infog Autonomy 2

Monique Canto-Sperber expresses her ‘profound liberal’ conviction: it can be assumed that the autonomy of public institutions inevitably keeps privileges and preferential treatment secret. No angelic attitude or master key solutions on this point: the risks are real, but can be avoided”. On the other hand, the philosopher judges, the public school without autonomy is in danger of quickly coming to a dead end. In concrete terms, autonomy can also mean carrying a uniform or partnerships with NGOs and associations.

guarantees. Monique Canto-Sperber does not claim to offer a ready-made solution. Guarantees are provided. The state remains fully responsible “to establish the legal framework of the public remit of education, to make appropriate investments, including for the quality of the infrastructure, but also to guarantee the high level of training of the educational staff” and “to fully to assume its function of control and sanction in case of failure”. Unlike the Swedish or British examples, the arrival of private managers is excluded.

This autonomy is being implemented “experimentally and progressively” on a voluntary basis. Free is the rule. There are no tuition fees or education vouchers. The school is secular (no religious orientation, 2004 law on the wearing of religious symbols applies). The calendar of the school year is identical throughout National Education.

As at the beginning of the school year, the school is dissected, criticized, sometimes without any nuance, once the holidays are over. Emmanuel Macron confided his “ambition for education” to his new minister, Pap Ndiaye. This endeavor will have to take a more convincing direction than just upgrading teachers. If Monique Canto-Sperber doesn’t claim to be offering a magic potion to this National Education placed under her microscope, her recipe is serious.

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