Posted on May 24, 2022
The special exams for the 2022 baccalaureate held about ten days ago brought the issue of teaching math and science to the forefront of the educational landscape.
Remember, at the beginning of the year, math science societies were alarmed by the fact that in the new high school, only 59% of students got math in the last year of the general year, compared to 90% before the reform of 2019 high school. At about the same time, the Medef urgently demanded a massive reintroduction of math, science and technology education in schools in order to train many more graduate engineers.
Let’s not get everything mixed up, replied Jean-Michel Blanquer, the then minister. With the reform of my high school, it is no longer a matter of teaching mathematics to as many students as possible, but of raising the level of students who choose the mathematics specialty after the second to see them and then orient themselves more massively to scientific studies. studies .
He had admitted, however, that an increase in math hours in the high school’s communal briefcase was possible to reduce the “the mathematical culture of all students”. And to immediately entrust the investigation of this matter to a committee set up for the occasion. Following this, the minister recently confirmed that “science education” of the common core will be renamed “science and math education” from the beginning of the 2022 school year (very original) and that the number of teaching hours in the first class would increase ( surprise, surprise ) weekly from 2:00 am to 3:30 am.
However, the report of the commission will not have been completely useless, because in the course of its analyzes and observations it brings up several essential elements that will not surprise the new Minister of National Education. I remember three:
The first is well known, very disturbing and well practiced for years:
The average level of math skills in France has been declining for almost 40 years.
Far more worryingly, it is the average level in anything that has been in constant decline for years, with the 2019 TIMSS International Mathematics Ranking just the latest in a long list of PISA and other PIRLS that are all without exception, both in science and in science. the literary subjects, places France in the last ranks of comparable countries.
The second point, regarding the strengthening of the scientific level of students who have chosen scientific specialties and options, is more encouraging:
The reform significantly improves the training of future scientists and generates a mathematical elite.
Moreover, compared to the old S series (before the 2019 reform), proportionately more students move on to preparatory studies and scientific studies after the baccalaureate. A nice result that both the committee and the minister attribute to the “à la carte” character of the new secondary school: the students have the choice to compose their course and use their taste for science instead of the reputation of the former S-current that was supposed to “lead to everything”.
The committee nevertheless emphasizes – the third element, and in my opinion the most important – that if the scientific and mathematical level of secondary school students who do not specialize in these subjects is considered too low, the fault lies with the entire school career. .from the first levels of school and university:
Secondary school is the last link in school education. It cannot alone solve the problem of magnitude associated with the decline in the average level of mathematics proficiency of French students over nearly 40 years.
A common sense comment that can be easily extended to all topics.
Pap Ndiaye, Minister of National Education
In this highly critical and highly strategic context for the future of the country at a time in history when much is at stake in terms of knowledge and techniques, can the new Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, be the man for the situation?
To begin with, there is such a striking political dimension in his appointment (within a government otherwise rather dull and little marked with the seal of renewal), such an indiscreet call with his foot in the direction of voters fond of diversity and of intersectionality by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, that it is particularly difficult to see in it a serious consideration of the crucial issues inherent in national education.
Pap Ndiaye is certainly a history graduate and was a professor of higher education, but there is no doubt that these are his commitments to the left, his work on the black condition, his past ties to the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) , his calls for affirmative action (renamed equal opportunities in the language of pedagogy) and his experience as director of the museum of the history of immigration thrown into the hands of the left during three-week parliamentary elections.
In the legs of the left or in the legs of French universalism? The whole question is there.
Like Jean-Michel Blanquer, great destroyer of the… cancel cultureby wokism and the rampant Islamo-leftism of the university (as we have seen at work at Sciences Po Grenoble) had become the man to be shot in the insurgent ranks, just as it will be difficult for the far left to direct the same reproaches to his successor. Aside from the short-term electoral manoeuvre, this may be exactly what Emmanuel Macron wanted: to have an Education Minister who the teachers’ unions, very outspoken on the left, will find it difficult to criticize without denying themselves on many counts.
It should be noted that in his handover speech, Pap Ndiaye immediately placed himself under the sign of the universalist tradition of the French Republic, paid tribute to Samuel Paty, a history professor like himself and a victim of Islamist communitarianism, and described himself as perhaps the double symbol of meritocracy and diversity, to be added (video, 05′ 38″):
I am not proud of it, but rather of the sense of duty and responsibilities that are now mine.
We would very much like to know how the president convinced him to accept this particularly difficult and vulnerable portfolio. Indeed, at the head of the Immigration Museum, the historian was in an ideal position, perfectly in line with his university work, without the inconvenience of the daily visibility with millions of French parents, students or teachers.
Moreover, and this is not limited to the issue of education, where does the roadmap established by the President of the Republic end and where does the autonomy of the ministers, including the Prime Minister, begin?
At the educational level, we had understood that Emmanuel Macron wanted to continue at the national level what he announced last September for the schools of Marseille.
He then proposed to convert fifty schools in Marseille into laboratories of “the school of the future” from the start of the 2022 school year. First step: giving school principals the freedom to create their own teaching team instead of depending on administrative allocations of ministry posts.
In these schools “we will therefore be able to adapt, learning projects, school rhythms, breaks, duration of lessons, ways of teaching and (I want) that we can start from the beginning of the school year 2022 – 2023 . And then evaluate these results and, if they are convincing, generalize[…]In principle, the idea is simple: give more freedom to get more results. (Macron, Marseille, 02/09/21)
Let’s not get carried away. It is clear that the “freedom” that Emmanuel Macron is willing to grant to school education must absolutely remain within the narrow bosom of the pachyderm monopoly of national education, in effect ordering this project to be under constant surveillance. from a more ideologically and operationally unruly one.
But for the teachers’ unions it is of course already too much, way too much. In other words, odious ultra-liberal, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon quickly confirmed, already less complimentary about the new minister just two days after the surprise of his appointment:
Could this ultimately be Pap Ndiaye’s role? To appease the administration, to appease the unions, to reassure them in the anchorages on the left and to defend the Public Service of Education, to flatter some egalitarian education totems, to achieve in the end, and almost covertly, to introduce a mini-dose of freedom into the workings of the school?
Be that as it may, Pap Ndiaye definitely needs to know one thing: diversity or not, black studies or not, even in residential areas, families concerned about their children’s education and integration are beginning to flee public schools. Many parents from underprivileged neighborhoods are increasingly opting for private Catholic schools near their homes to save their children from community confinement and the daily violence in certain playgrounds.
On good terms…
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