New exams will not fix the university drop-out rate

Simon Heffer, the renowned political commentator and historian, turns his gaze to French politics

France prides itself on its intellectualism in a way most other countries don’t. Think of the Académie Française, a revered body without parallel. Think of the great ceremony each autumn when the year’s crop of new novels is celebrated in the rentrée littéraire. Think of those earnest late-night television discussion programmes. It is a conscious intellectualism for which its participants have been prepared, in part, by le bac: the baccalauréat qualification that, for 210 years, French school-leavers have taken.

Now, though, President Macron is threatening its greatest reform since 1962. Instead of taking around 12 subjects, candidates would take just four tests; there would be continuous assessment and an oral test. All that would remain of old would be a four-hour examination in philosophy, presumably to ensure the late-night talk programmes can continue.

Mr Macron wants to make the courses French students take more like ...

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