With Emmanuel Macron becoming the new French President, education is being placed on the first priority of the French government with the greatest amount of state budget which is 51.29 milliards, about 12% of the total budget of 424.7 milliards. New education policies are, also going to be introduced in French education system. In this paper, one of those policy, to limit the class sizes in primary school in notably poor suburbs, will be discussed.
This paper will be divided into five parts. To start with, the philosophy of the French education will be explained, followed by the education system in France. Next, the situation of notably poor suburbs, banlieue in French, will be described. Then, a brief explanation will be given on the policy of small class education in primary education in notably poor suburbs. After that, the benefits and weaknesses of small class education will be compared, and recommendations will be drawn for the government. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn with the evidence found in the previous parts.
Philosophy of French Education.
According to Findlay et al. (2011), most of the social democracies across the world have sought to improve access to education because it has been proven that education is more of a social privilege which can results in the reproduction of social difference if the disparities are not reduced or eliminated. For this reason, most of these countries have improved access to education through meritocratic means as well as widening the participation strategies. Over the recent years, France has also put in place strategies which to support its educational philosophy. The general principles of French education philosophy are based on the French Constitution which asserts that it is the responsibility of the state to provide free, compulsory, and secular education to its citizens at all levels. French learning system focuses on the following general principles.
High Academic Expectations
Over the recent years there has been a significant impact of the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) in France as compared to the period when the country averted the implementation of most of the education reforms (Dobbins & Martens 2011). This is because the OECD demanded the implementation of the highest levels of standards which could result in top academic performances. In the most recent years, the schools in France have obtained more academic freedom which has consequently resulted in high level of academic achievement. For instance, state and private schools have been allowed to enter into contracts with the state and coexist within the state system. Private schools which sign contracts with the state benefit since they obtain support from the state. Nonetheless, these schools are still subjected to regular checks and scrutiny aimed at attaining the highest levels of academic performance.
Another essential guiding principle for French education is the respect for teacher authority. The school system in France is made such that it gives appropriate respect to the teacher for their role in the learning process. This is to mean that the teachers and the students are required to show respect to the teaching authority as the leading authority in the school setting.
Secularism and Individual Competition
Another guiding principle to the philosophy of French education is that it is based on secularism principle. As such, the education system gives respect for the beliefs of pupils and parents by not integrating religious training as part of the syllabus. However, this does not mean that students cannot be taught religious education. The principle of religious freedom allows that the students can be allowed some days off so that they can be trained religious studies outside of school. Besides secularism, the French education system is also designed in a way that it allows for individual competition among the students. To achieve this, an absolute grading system has been developed to indicate the learning curve of students.
Stress on Analytical Thought
Education has been made compulsory in France, and it has been in the Law since 28 March 1882. However, one thing to note since the change is the shift of emphasis on analytical thought and rote learning style as opposed to the creative idea. This learning method emphasizes on the step-by-step methodological approach to thinking which enables one to break down challenging problems into single and manageable components.
The government seeks to ensure that there is a free provision of education at level 1 and level 2. This is seen as one of the famous proclamation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which espoused that education shall be free even if it is at elementary and fundamental stages (Bray & Kwo 2013). Under this principle, the running costs, building, and equipment were divided between the various local authorities. At the primary level, the municipalities provide school supplies and theoretically, parents also provide textbooks. In the secondary level, the state provides books and other essential supplies to the schools.
Education System in France
After completing nursery or kindergarten (Ecole maternelle), the compulsory system of education is divided into the following three stages:
Primary school (Ecole)
Middle school (college)
High school (lycee)
Preschool/nursery (Ecole Maternelle)
According to Expatica (2015), the Preschools or nursery schools provide care for children from the age of two and three years. This goes up to when they reach the age of 6. At this stage of the childs growth and development, the education system emphasizes reducing the gap in illiteracy by equipping children with intervention programs with skills such as reading comprehension and the ability to engage in referencing (Kleeck 2008).
This is a very crucial point in the growth and development of children as their progress is monitored. The objectives and standards for children with learning difficulties are set where teachers can provide individual or group assistance to such a group of students.
Middle School (College)
Starting from the age of 11 to 15, students in France are required to attend middle school or college. (Chevalier-Karfis 2016). There are four levels at this point, and the students are accepted without having to go through entrance exams. The four levels include:
6eme-11 to 12 years old
5eme-12 to 13 years old
4eme-13 to 14 years old
3eme-14 to 15 years old
At the end of the four years, the students are required to sit for a brevet (Diplome National du Brevet or Brevet des Colleges). After completing the brevet, the students can leave the education system altogether or continue education in the lycee.
High School or Lycee
From the age of 15 to 18 years old, students spend their education in secondary education at a lycee general, a lycee technique or a lycee professional. The French lycee which is akin to high school is divided into two cycles, the Cycle de determination and the cycle terminal (Davis 2010).
Situation of Poor Suburbs (Banlieue) in France
The Economist (2013), highlights the case of Sevran which is one of the most popular urban zones in France. Sevran is one of the poorest places in France with a jobless rate of 18% and an unemployment rate of 40% among the youth. These facts present just but the glimpse of the situation in the suburbs of France. In this region, schools have a high turnover of often untrained and inexperienced teachers who gain merit by spending their time doing some work in the banlieues. Some of the few job centers in the region are under-staffed while drug dealers compete with career advisers to attract youths to their businesses.
According to Chrisafis (2015), ten years after Frances urban riots of 2005 which promised to be a turning around for the communities living in the suburbs of France little is yet to be seen as an improvement. It was expected that the riots would help in reducing the high inequality in education as well as the social stratification that existed between the rich and the poor communities of France. Chrisafis (2015) reports that the disparities in the ghetto continue to rise. The few students who manage to succeed and get enrolled in some of the top universities in the country are continuously pressured by their counterparts from affluent families to give up their ambitions and settle for lesser goals like seeking for employment. As such, this has derailed the improvement of education in the suburb regions of France. Consequently, France has been ranked as one of the developed countries with unequal education system because the students performance is dependent on their socioeconomic statuses.
Banks (2015) asserts that failed citizenship in a country occurs, the marginalized members of the society are prevented from attaining full structural inclusion in the nation. If this happens, the marginalized groups consequently develop weak identities with the state and start feeling low allegiance to it. As a result, they start participating less in the political systems of the country. It is for this reason Gee (2017) intone that people living in the poor suburbs of France dont care about elections in France and do not take part in it. This is because these people feel left out regarding the provision of quality and equitable education and other social services within their areas of residence. As such, these individuals dont feel like engaging in national politics and elections since it would not result in an achievement for them.
A study conducted by Daverne-Bailly and Dutercq (2015) affirmed the existence of social stratification in the French educational system. The formation of preparatory courses for the French grandes Ecoles (CPGES) was aimed at allowing a new group of students from the humble backgrounds to compete with those from wealthier families. However, this study established that the program serves conversely as was expected. Instead of recruiting students from modest backgrounds, this program paradoxically helped to maintain the social gap that existed. As such, the findings of this study indicated the deep-rooted deterioration of education level for the disadvantaged students. Smith (2005) also established that although all the French universities are open for all high school graduates, the grandes Ecoles, the premier institutions in France weed out anyone who does not fit finely to the mold of students from affluent backgrounds. It is also found that of the 350,000 students who graduate annually from high schools, the premier institutions virtually admit 1,000 of these students.
Policy of Small Class Education in Primary Education in Frances Suburbs
Meunier (2014) found that the presence of education policies play a key role in the pursuit of social inclusion as well as social justice in the society. As such, there are different policies which have been put in place to manage the socioeconomic diversity of students. The class size plays a key role in the delivery of quality education in any education system. Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (2017), indicate that there has been a rise in the class size over the years in France. By the year 2015, France had an average class size of 23. However, this ratio is found to be higher in suburban areas where there is a vast population who cannot afford to seek quality. As a result, they are forced to settle for the available choices resulting in over-populated classrooms.
In recognition to this, Emmanuel Macron sought reducing class...
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