The five challenges that await the French school before the start of the new school year

12:24 AM, August 26, 2022

Our school has five great challenges to overcome, five battles to fight. A distinction must be made between structural challenges and new challenges. The first are tasks that are constantly repeated, constantly carried on, because they are the core of the Republican project; how do you make school fairer, more efficient, more hospitable? These challenges are those of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The new challenges – the test of post-truth and the challenge of the living – appeared two short decades ago. More recently, they are also more concerning.

The demand for justice

The French school has become one of the most unequal schools. It is at the university that the situation worsens with the appearance of real ghetto settlements. Some institutions in the enhanced priority education network accept up to 70% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, reflecting residential segregation.

Our school amplifies these initial social inequalities, as Cnesco has shown, by providing these students with lower quality education, with shorter learning times, less experienced teachers, less stable teaching teams and the use of often less effective teaching methods. When our school system struggles to provide true equal opportunity, it’s the big schools that bring this issue of injustice to a boil. The work of Julien Grenet and his team tells us that in the most prestigious schools (such as ENS-Ulm, Polytechnique, HEC or Sciences Po Paris), the percentage of students from highly privileged social categories reaches 90% of the workforce. Suffice it to say, these schools are reservations. There is much injustice because these inequalities in access are only partly explained by differences in performance.

While 40% of this gap can be explained by the higher average academic performance of students from highly privileged social categories, the fact remains that more than half of the gap is due to other factors (geographic distance, lack of information, lack of information, family sources, phenomenon of self-censorship), recalling how the demand for justice remains a burning issue.

The question of efficiency

We still remember the concern of the historian Antoine Prost who wrote in the newspaper The world in February 2013: School level is dropping, this time it’s true! We can mention PISA (survey that focuses on their reading, science and math skills), PIRLS (which assesses the reading comprehension of CM1 students), or even TIMSS (which focuses on the skills of CM1 students and the fourth in Mathematics and Science), all these international studies come together to highlight the mediocrity or even the weakness of our students’ results.

Let’s talk about math, the news invites us to do so by questioning the place of this discipline in high school. With a score of 485 points in the latest TIMSS survey, French CM1 students are far below the European average (527 points) and the average of the OECD countries (529 points). The level of the fourth graders is collapsing with a 47 point drop in two decades. This means, to put it bluntly, that the 4th graders are at the level that the 5th graders had.e in 1995. Add to this the 100,000 young people who leave our school without a diploma or qualification. Even though the number of exits without qualifications has decreased in the last three decades, they still remain high. There are extracurricular explanations (living conditions, parental qualifications, belonging to a single-parent family), but the school obviously has a leading role. How to help it regain its full effectiveness from this point of view is an important question today.

Make the school more welcoming

Making the school more hospitable is the third structural challenge. We can write a history of the school based on the principle of hospitality. Welcoming the children of notables and then those of the working class in the 17th centurye with the generalization of small charity schools, welcoming girls and those who will be called in the 19the century, the “mentally handicapped”, were finally welcomed children who would have “with special needs”. But we cannot reduce hospitality to hospitable, it is also really the place for others. School should become both a place of living and of study. Students should be able to participate in the implementation of devices necessary for the studious life, because living in a place is appropriation, a student should be able to say in his heart: ” this school is mine “.

The classroom, as we know, is this original place where we learn while socializing. The child who has become a pupil is confronted with a double alterity: that of his peers and that of the culture. The philosopher Corine Pelluchon speaks in her work of coexistence which, she tells us, goes beyond simple coexistence because it ” translates not only the desire but also the pleasure that there is to live together, with each other, and not just next to each other Living together at school – dare we say it – that cultivates the desire and pleasure of learning together, is certainly accompanied by cooperative learning methods and a renewed school ritual.

The Ordeal of Post-truth

Ignorance is still there, but it is no longer alone. The school, in its large classes, has to deal with the flow of meaningless talk, conspiratorial delusions and other wanderings. A new threat has emerged: post-truth. It is a secret evil that likes to imitate the art of reasoning, undermining cognitive abilities and threatening the school in its task of transference. This phenomenon stems from the combination of two elements: a tendency to overestimate our skills in the areas we least master, sometimes referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect, and an unprecedented ability to exchange and interact with the advent of the Internet.

The sweet dream of a knowledge society has been thwarted from the start by the nightmare of a world of stupidity and misinformation. Post-truth invites us to think about the content of education, because before it is fair, the school must be a good school, that is, an institution that teaches what it deserves to be taught for emancipated men. It also invites us to rethink the art of teaching. There is no education without a contribution to the epistemic rules and protocols that govern the discipline being taught. The students should also be taught to be attentive to the mental processes they are carrying out as they learn. No critical thinking without metacognitive work.

The living challenge

If there are realities that we can no longer ignore, it is the climatic and ecological disasters. To meet this challenge, two teachings must be promoted: moral and civic education and artistic and cultural education. Ironically, the poor parents of the school become the ambassadors of the heralded cultural revolution.

Moral and civic education is organized around three goals: respecting others, acquiring the values ​​of the Republic and building a civic culture. We must add to this ambitious program a fourth goal: to acquire an ecological conscience. It’s time for eco-citizenship. We must also promote artistic education, which is undoubtedly the best school to help us rethink our relationship with otherness, with everything different from ourselves and on which we depend to live. It is a matter of moving from a consciousness polarized by the desire to know and dominate, to an attitude animated by the concern to welcome.

Artistic education invites listening and attention, because man is not only a being who analyzes and creates, he is also a subject who feels and receives. At a time when we swear only by the words appropriation and competence, when knowledge is measured only by the ability to do, we must also view training as acquiring attitudes that change our presence in the world.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Leave a Comment