FRANCE’S education system has been awarded a bare pass mark by the OECD economic development body as the organisation highlighted problems of social inequality, insufficient investment and not enough teenagers in school. In a damning assessment, OECD education director Bernard Hugonnier told Le Parisien France is the country where social background counts the most in success, yet: “The equality of opportunity and the republican schooling of which France crows are a colossal lie; France must wake up and seize this problem.” The France in Education at a Glance report says it trains its social elite well, but trails in chances for the less well-off. France is also doing poorly in keeping 15-19-year-olds in education: this rose by 9.5% in the OECD since 1995, while in France it has dropped from 89% to 84%. Investment in education as a proportion of total budget also decreased – from 11.5% in 1995 to 10.6% in 2008, while the average showed an increase (actual investment increased 5%, compared to 15% average). However, there is an imbalance between primary and secondary, with investment in primary education being 14% less per pupil than average, while in secondary it is 12% more.
In addition, French teachers are among the worst-paid, with a teacher of 15 years’ experience paid 15% less than average.
Another report on the education system, by the Conseil Economique, Social et Environnemental, said while it works “pretty well” for half of pupils, the proportion with very poor standards at the end of schooling has reached 20%, considerably more than France’s main competitors; marking a “strong decline” over 10 years".
The CESE said: “Very severe budget restrictions and job cuts” have contributed, as well as teacher training that is “insufficient” and “disorganised”.
Another study, by education watchdog the Haut Conseil de l’Education, slammed government educational progress indicators as “deceptive”, “incomplete” and “unreliable”.
Various school reforms were introduced in last month’s rentrée, including new measures for discipline.