Has France looked at education systems in other European countries and how will reforms affect the prospects of pupils in the future when they leave school?
Those are among the points euronews correspondent Sophie Claudet put to the French Education Minister Najat Vallaud Belkacem.
Sophie Claudet: “Madam Minister, thank you for joining us at the Council of Europe on the sidelines of the World Democracy Forum. Recent studies of the French school system show that France has been the most unequal country in the OECD for many years.”
Najat Vallaud Belkacem: “What we need to understand is that these surveys are about 15-year-olds, so what we’re evaluating is the school system that these students experienced in previous years. The children who will experience our reforms that came into effect between last year and this year can be genuinely evaluated by the same system some ten years into the future.
‘So what we did in 2015 is that for the first time in 30 years we have really reformed the priority education system, removed those institutions that didn’t belong there and didn’t justify the aid they were receiving and replaced them with schools in real need and which were not previously supported.
‘A lot more resources have been handed out, almost half a billion euros more have been put into priority education, there is better reward for teachers in those schools because that is where it is most difficult to teach.
‘And especially we have provided new answers in the teaching methods that revolve around a much closer accompaniment and follow-up of the pupils in priority education than what we do with pupils outside priority education.”
Euronews: “We see in the PISA (ranking) that the countries rank/ that do best, have better teacher training, and real-time assessment and correction. Is this part of your reform?”
Najat Vallaud Belkacem: “There has been a profound reform of how teachers advance in their careers, are paid, inspected and evaluated. And this is very important because for the first time we have succeeded in putting in place the principle that the most committed teachers should be better recognized than the others.”
Euronews: “Have you looked at what’s happening in other European countries, can this be an inspiration for France? I’m thinking here of Germany and Poland, which were very poorly ranked in 2000 by PISA and have taken strong measures since .”
Najat Vallaud Belkacem: “The secondary school reform, honestly, was very much inspired by what was being done in Germany, Switzerland, the countries of the North, with regard to all the interdisciplinary aspects, that is to say how several disciplines can at one time give – open up a little – and make sense for the students because they will talk together. How we co-operate, work together with students.”
Euronews: “Can France also draw inspiration from the Swiss or German model on vocational training?”
Najat Vallaud Belkacem: “I am very sincerely committed to it. We have decided to create 500 new vocational training courses focusing on the trades of tomorrow which we predict that in 10 years will lack manpower.
‘On the other hand, to be frank with you, what’s annoying for me is that vocational education is still not important enough for our decision-makers and those who debate publicly on education.The reality is it does not have the same value as general education.”
Euronews: “I would like a reaction to one last point. It is a statement by the National Council for the Evaluation of the School System, which states: “The French educational system now jeopardizes both future economic growth and national and social cohesion.”
Najat Vallaud Belkacem: “I insist that this refers to the past years, it is not a look at what is happening since 2012.
‘Clearly, what we suffered from before 2012 was job cuts. Some may argue that not everything comes down to numbers, but when you do not even have a teacher in front of each classroom – and we have seen how difficult it is to replenish the pool of teachers – when you no longer have trained teachers – as was the case before 2012 – by definition you have an inability to take care of students and their diversity and inequalities etc. “