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Bac professionnel is worth pursuing

Are children in France pushed towards vocational courses at too young an age? Connexion readers share their thoughts

Exam season has arrived, with half a million lycée students sitting their baccalauréat. The qualification, which is 203 years old, has many critics - including Connexion readers whose children are experiencing the system first-hand.

Stuart Adamson, who runs a ski school in the Isère, says it is unfair that many teenagers are forced down the "bac professionnel" route, which is more vocational. The number of students sitting the bac pro - instead of the traditional "bac général" - is up 36% this year and represents a quarter of all bac candidates.

"It is far too early for any child to be forced into a 'bac pro' at 15 because his or her average marks are not good enough. Ask any French parent this and they will totally agree," Mr Adamson writes.

"I do wonder how many teenagers miss fabulous opportunities in their life because they were given up on by the system and channeled into a menial professionally orientated syllabus.

"My 15-year-old son is really looking forward to lycée but he is thwarted by his educational level at this moment. It would appear that no matter how hard he works, he cannot improve his situation.

"Although the French politicians regard their system as perfect, they would do well to look a little further into the future of their youth."

Other newsletter readers share their thoughts…


I don't agree with the guy quoted in the article re bac vocational. the problem with the education system in uk is that too many people are streamed into university, sitting silly degrees and getting worthless qualifications. consequently the whole uk education system has been dumbed down in order to achieve almost total uni entrance. not everyone needs to go to a uni. vocational qualifications are worthwhile and we know several people who are taking them. the uk would benefit from reinstating apprenticeships and looking at vocational options. two of our three children have gone through the bac system and have benefitted greatly from it, in fact it is one of the reasons we moved over here.
Deborah Haynes


Halleluliah!!! As a Brit having lived in France, and brought up four French sons in mainly the French system (we had a few years back in Britain for job reasons) I have to say that those who sit a traditional Bac in France get a much broader education, at a much higher level, than that we teach in Britain. This means that their choice of future education and professions is altogether much wider than in Britain. Although now spending my time divided between France and Britain and having taught in France, I did teach in Britain between 2001 - 2006 (French, Spanish and R.E.) and was utterly dismayed at both the poor level of general education and the lack of expectations. In France when children are asked to go down the BEP road, it is for a reason. These are kids who do not need to go to University and when will everybody realise that there is nothing wrong with being an electrician or a plumber? The expectation that everybody needs a University education is ridiculous and I feel it is disrupting the classroom when you have half of the children who have no desire, nor expectation to learn whatever you are trying to teach them, thus impeding the other half from actually learning. Everybody sitting the BAC has a wide choice of subjects, not by choice but by obligation, which broadens their education instead of just sitting the compulsory 3 A-levels, or 4 for those who can. And for those who have not realised it yet, there are many schools in Britain choosing the International Bac instead of the A-levels because of the higher standing in the academic world.
Cynthia Prentice


My son has gone through the secondary school system here and is currently in the midst of a BAC Pro course...I do take exception to the comments of 'menial professional qualifications'. What snobbery! Though there are aspects to the course that leave much to be desired as the insistence of continuing all general subject matters such as History and Science, the idea that my son will leave school with a qualification with which he can immediately find work rather than I don't know how many years to gain a degree and be fit for very little in the workplace is rather refreshing especially as the French do not seem to be as snobbish about these qualifs as the English. In my work, I came across someone who had studied a BAC + 5 in my field but was totally incapable of actually doing any useful work...she was therefore not hired. Seems like a shame and a waste of time. There are many advantages to a vocational course for those who do not want to go the academic route and I personally applaud the recognition of these courses at a BAC level.
Christina Hyde Bernier


It makes no sense to force everyone into higher education. Excellent vocational training is what is needed. The bac professionel should be improved and made more attractive.
Laurel Zuckerman


As an American teacher who taught ESL outside the French public school system in France for 7 years, I shared the frustration of some of my students who were incredibly bright and, yet, were pushed into the vocational track. What a waste of their brilliance for both them and the country. I saw first hand the huge flaws of the French system. When I and other American teachers introduced some of our teaching methods, the student level of enthusiasm for learning increased dramatically and the students excelled in English rapidly. If only the French educational system would accommodate all that talent. There's nothing wrong with the vocational track for students whose interests and skills are compatible, but I'm talking about students who have the desire and skills to be teachers, psychologists, doctors or other professionals. As for jobs available to them - if there are no openings at the top for young, creative, bright minds, then the country is in deeper trouble than we think. The US is also doing a poor job at accommodating many of our college graduates during this economic downturn, but that said, the highest paid group in America is still our college graduates. They will eventually be employed and rewarded for all their hard work. Unfortunately, those students I knew in France have been denied that chance.
Anna Rose

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