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France Wants Division of Students for Academic and Vocational Schools Early On

France Wants Division of Students for Academic and Vocational Schools Early On

Posted September. 10, 2007 07:48,   


France’s Minister of National Education, Xavier Darcos, asked for the reform of France’s integrated middle school system (coll`ege unique) in which all middle school students learn the same curriculum yesterday.

The integrated middle school system was introduced with the aim of providing all the students with equal opportunities for university entrance exams (Baccalaureate) as part of the effort to democratize education during the government of France’s former President Valery Giscard d Estaing in 1975.

Back then, students decided whether they would go to an ordinary middle school or to a vocational middle school depending on the exam result they took upon graduating from elementary school. However, under the current integrated middle school system, all students learn the same curriculum at middle schools and decide upon the type of high school, between an ordinary one and vocational one, before they get into a high school.

According to an internet poll conducted by the French daily “Le Figaro” last Friday, 74 percent of those surveyed supported the repeal of the integrated system, throwing their weight behind Darcos’s claim.

In a letter to teachers greeting the new academic year this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated, “An unqualified student for middle school classes should not get into a middle school.” He didn’t specifically say the words “entrance (qualifying) exam” or “selection.” However, Minister Darcos started to move toward abolishing the integrated middle school system immediately after Sarkozy’s letter was sent.

Darcos remarked, “There is a big disparity in academic performance among students at CM2, the final grade at elementary school,” and added, “I wonder if letting an unqualified student study at middle school really means the democratization of education.” He will announce the measure for this matter around the end of October.

France reportedly wants to model its schools after Germany’s. Unlike France, German students enter Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium, straight after graduation from elementary schools. Students with relatively low grades get into Hauptschule or Realschule, and graduates from these schools enter a vocational school in most cases.

The gymnasium is the center of secondary education. This is where students get qualifications for Abitur, similar to France’s Baccalaureate upon the graduation to move on to universities.

A Gesamtschule system similar to the integrated middle school system in France started in 1970s after the Social Democratic Party took power. However, many of the Gesamtschule were abolished in the 1990s. Some Gesamtschule are still in operation in some states where the Social Democratic Party prevails, but they find it hard to attract students.