Posted on May 22, 2022
By Armand Lépiers, high school student.
It is now an open secret, the level of French students is now low. According to the latest PISA ranking, we are struggling to get above the average of the results of the OECD countries and at about the same level as Portugal…
However, successive governments keep telling us that all is well, that the perception of the drop in level is a show that is sometimes reactionary, sometimes elitist (often both) and that we should sleep peacefully, the succession is assured!
But we have to face the facts, this is not the case. I myself am currently in Terminale and the level (mine first) is very low. But with the reform of the baccalaureate, continuous assessment has become an integral part of that baccalaureate’s grades. As a result, teachers have come to overestimate their students, probably not to disappoint them by admitting that their level is average. This policy eventually leads to class averages that mean nothing anymore: the best students are a few tenths of a point from the largest part of the class and three or four points from the worst.
This is especially annoying for selective courses (including preparatory classes) that can no longer separate the wheat from the chaff and have to take thousands of precautions to avoid recruiting students who are not up to the standard. These precautions include, for example, the fact that we only recruit students from a small group of high schools that we have known for a long time because of their good standard. Faced with this turn of events, a small number of teachers from the preparatory classes decided to set up a demanding math exam without compromise with a ranking of all participants. This exam is called TeSciA (Advanced Scientific Test) and it is simply amazing.
I speak about it consciously, as I myself participated in the first edition of March 2022. Not only and unlike the Olympiads and other general competitions, it does not require any specific preparation apart from knowledge and mastery of the Terminale program of the Mathematics specialty, but you can access it for a modest registration fee, twenty euros, fifteen less if you have a scholarship. This exam has everything it takes to please state education, it is accessible to everyone, costs next to nothing, aims to help students position themselves in relation to their desires for higher education, is anonymous, etc. All these arguments could tempt counterpoints which was the first and almost the only newspaper to promote this ambitious project.
A protest against TeScia
Yes, but here it is, the meritocratic ideal no longer seems to be the ideal of the teachers, who welcomed this initiative with great lukewarmness, a euphemism to describe what was more or less a protest: TeScia would be discriminatory depending on their In the home setting, the students would be more comfortable with the questions asked, there would not be enough exam centers that would prevent many young people from participating, etc.
Faced with so much bad faith, one can only be stunned. With 25 exam centers distributed both in metropolitan France and abroad, this accusation is difficult to understand, not to mention that this is the first edition of this ambitious project for which Catholic Education has innumerable sticks in its wheels. stabbed.
Likewise, the arguments of these professors who argue that TeSciA is merely a means to ensure the social reproduction of the elites is incomprehensible. We are reminded of the same discourse that justified the dismantling of the humanities, which was deemed too bourgeois and elitist. Where the problem is that scientific selection is undoubtedly one of the most egalitarian and meritocratic in the world. There is no need to integrate unspoken social codes to solve math problems, moreover we are in 2022 with unprecedented access to the internet. The web and its countless resources make knowledge even more accessible than before. To claim that it would be impossible for a young person dissatisfied with school education to train himself is simply willful blindness.
Another objection is that the research must be paid for, which would constitute an unacceptable violation of equality. It is true that with a prize of five euros for fellows, this selection based on money is simply unacceptable! Just think of the price of a Greek dish for an exam, while the kebab, as everyone knows, is a meal reserved for the richest citizens! Yes, we can only agree, this selection on money is wreaking terrible havoc in our beautiful Socialia and what could be more normal than to fight against this eminently anti-democratic initiative?
More seriously, far from showing anything innovative, the professors’ epidermal response to fair selection simply attests to their hatred of meritocracy, which they nevertheless claim to defend since it does not stem from sacred, sacred public service.
However, this anonymous exam was a huge success, with approximately 1,800 students enrolled, although schools shouted out loud and encouraged their students not to participate (this was the case at my high school). It is clear that many young people are well aware that the baccalaureate has become less and less diplomas (the height) that no longer allow a serene access to higher education and therefore turn to palliatives who promise a real evaluation. One can only hope that this system will evolve in the face of the increasingly general decline of the mammoth. In the hope that this system will enable young people to find scales of value that are less biased than the first college degree and that they will understand that public school has always lied to them about their true level for political reasons.