Record number of French students pass final exams

This year, around 91.5% of 740,000 students in France have passed their final year school exams, known as le bac (short for baccalauréat), without having to do resits.

8 July 2020
Someone writing in a piece of paper. A record number of French students have passed final school exams this year.Exceptionally, this year students who need to take resits for personal reasons (such as grief or illness) will be able to so do in September.
By Joanna York

The results were released by the French ministry of education yesterday (July 7).  

However, most students knew their results in advance as a continuous assessment policy was exceptionally used this year, as a result of the Covid-19 health crisis disrupting normal school timetables. This meant that only results from students’ first and second trimesters were used to calculate exam results.

The 95.1% pass rate is a “record” in France, up 13.7 points on results last year. The previous record, set in 2016, saw 88.6% of students passing the bac exams without needing to do resits.

Results were up for all types of bac pathway: 94.3% of students passed the ‘general’ bac (up 14.7 points on last year; 89.4% of students passed the ‘technological’ bac (up 13.9 points on last year); and 87.4% of students passed the ‘professional’ bac (up 11.6 points on last year).

Students who received a mark of 8-10 out of 20 will be able to take resits this week. Exceptionally, this year students who need to take resits for personal reasons (such as grief or illness) will be able to so do in September. 

 

University places needed to accommodate student success

French minister for education, Jean-Michel Blanquer said he did not find the high result of success surprising. He told news source BFMTV the most important thing was that “students who sign up for higher studies can have a place”. 

“That should be our first priority,” he added, noting that he wanted to protect students’ futures in light of a potential economic crisis following in the wake of the health crisis. He said that he did not want to see this year's students being “a sacrificed generation.”

He added that 8 out of 10 students already had a confirmed place at a higher education institution.

Read more: Making sense of post-baccalauréat options in France

Read more: France Covid recovery: Summer jobs paying well, but are rare

New scheme to help students into higher education

However, success is not assured for students beginning their studies at higher education institutions this autumn, according to Jean-Rémi Girard, president of the national syndicate of French secondary schools, lycées and collegès (SNALC). 

He told BFMTV: “Higher education will have to manage a significant influx of new students while it has itself been affected by the coronavirus crisis.”

He said some universities are still unsure whether they will be able to provide courses for students, following the health crisis.

The ministry of higher education has said it is working with institutions to create new places for students. This Thursday (July 9) it will launch an appeal on the site Parcoursup to help students who have not yet found a university place. Through the scheme, students will be able to contact higher education institutions directly to find out what places they have available in September. 

According to the ministry this could lead to up to 7,500 extra university places being filled.   

President congratulates students

Sentiments of support for students were echoed by President Emmanuel Macron, who took to social media platform TikTok yesterday to congratulate students on their results.

Addressing the students he said: “You have been through an unusual year, this year of the epidemic. Your generation has in front of you a stronger, more united, more ecological world to invent.

“I will do everything, where I am, to make sure the government works to make a better world based on these principles. But it’s not me who will decide your future, that will be you. So today, enjoy yourselves, celebrate your exam results and after, good luck.”

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