Back to school: 67% of French believe school no longer works

What do the French think of their French education system? To find out, Harris Interactive and Challenges interviewed a representative panel of 10,020 people*. And on the eve of the start of the 2022 school year, as the government struggles to recruit its teachers, the French paint a stern picture of school.

For one in two French people, it contributes to France’s decline, while only a quarter of them believe the education system contributes to the country’s progress. 67% believe that this setting does not work. Even in one of its most essential missions, which is the transmission of fundamental knowledge (reading, writing, counting), only 55% of the French feel that the school is really effective. National education is questioned, less than its teachers.

Deterioration in public colleges and high schools

Of the French who feel a certain decline in the level of education, 96% think it is about secondary school and 87% think it is about secondary school… If almost seven in ten French think it is also about primary school, the kindergarten previously spared (24%) and higher education (53%). It should be noted that this perception is shared by the parents of students as well as by all French.

This deterioration seems to affect private institutions less than public institutions. Almost all respondents believe that the level has deteriorated in the public sector (97%) against only a small majority in the private sector (56%). An analysis shared as much by the parents of students in the public sector as by those whose children are educated in the private sector.

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Staff, programs, lack of resources indicated

While the majority of them agree on the finding of a decline in the level of pupils, the French, on the other hand, are rather divided on the causes of this decline: over-classification, content of school curricula, dysfunctions in National Education and lack of to resources are all stated reasons. Yet the educational conditions are more often ‘indicated’ than the teachers themselves, their motivation or even their competence. 74% of the French denounce insufficient government action in the field of education and measures deemed inappropriate.

The French deplore a drop in the level of education, especially visible in secondary education, but are not convinced of the choice to prioritize investment in primary education at the expense of secondary education (32% believe that these measures have been effective) , or even making math a high-level specialty from the first (35%).

The French convinced by the doubling of the lower classes

On the other hand, the French are more convinced (59%) of the effectiveness of duplicating the lower classes (large part of kindergarten, CP and CE1) in priority education zones. A solution that was well received, since, as we have seen, overcrowding in the classrooms is one of the very first reasons given by the French for the drop in the level of education. As for the Baccalaureate reform, including more constant scrutiny, the French are struggling to position themselves on the subject, as this reform is considered effective by half of them and ineffective by the others.

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Plebiscite for a reduction in class size

To improve the quality of education, the French currently make quite different recommendations and there is no clear consensus on a specific measure. However, two solutions are somewhat out of the question: shrinking the class size by recruiting more teachers overall (52%) and restoring custody and sanctions for disruptive children (51%).

The other solutions proposed (making the teaching profession more attractive, developing a more benevolent pedagogy, evaluating teachers more often, etc.) are somewhat less emphasized by the French. In terms of the content of the programmes, the French promote both the development of fundamental knowledge – such as French and mathematics – and the development of vocational education and apprenticeship. On the other hand, reducing school rhythms is not particularly desirable

The French skeptical for the future

While the start of the 2022 school year is marked by concerns about the number of vacant teacher posts, six in ten French people do not believe in the ability of national education to make the teaching profession more attractive in the future – a means often considered by the French to improve the quality of education.

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The French are also skeptical about the ability of the National Education to raise the level of students (six out of ten French are pessimistic about the issue). From a more general point of view, 64% of French say they are pessimistic about the ability of national education to better reduce social inequalities, while 35% are optimistic about the question: again, when pessimism is raised, it does not make consensus with everyone for so much. Parents of schoolchildren in particular believe a little more than the French as a whole in the republican mission of schools (42% are optimistic against 57% pessimistic).

In the midst of all this, and while the teacher posts that have remained vacant in a certain number of classes will be scrutinized during this new school year, it should nevertheless be noted that they are much more critical of the dysfunctions of National Education than of the education system. appeal to explain the decline they observe.

*Survey conducted by Harris Interactive online from July 4-11, 2022. Sample of 10,020 people, representing French people aged 18 and over. Quota method and adjustment applied to the following variables: gender, age, socio-professional category and region of the interviewee.

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