1 December 2023

This column appears in “The World of Education”. If you subscribe to Le Monde, you can subscribe to this weekly letter by following this link.

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the future generalization of the universal national service (UNS) experienced for four years. Without anticipating what will really happen, it may be interesting to question the objectives assigned to it.

One can only approve of the one which consists in “strengthen national cohesion”. This is in fact in danger in a country where 3 million children and adolescents (one student in five) are prevented from learning serenely because they live in poor families. “National cohesion” is also undermined when social origin weighs so heavily on educational destinies in France, and when the privileged classes secede and educate their children separately, in public or private establishments of the enterprise. themselves, thus protecting them from frequenting the children of the people.

What else can be said when the Republic’s funding of private competition for its public schools is greater in France than in most countries in Europe? And, as if subsidizing private schools under contract at 73% from public funds was not enough, the only result of the compulsory schooling at 3 years old decided in 2019 was increased funding for private nursery schools. Displaying “national cohesion” and, at the same time, building and financing social separatism is contradictory to say the least.

Less time to open up to the world

Finally, how to understand this objective of strengthening social cohesion within the framework of the UNS when, at the very time when it was tested, from 2018 to 2022, the objective of social and academic diversity in establishments has completely disappeared? ministerial radars? Several experiments undertaken since 2015 had nevertheless been courageously pursued and obtained promising results. Measures have been announced in this regard for the next few weeks and are generating strong expectations within public schools. Fifteen days of SNU will perhaps bring together young people who never see each other at school, but will never be able to repair the damage of a deadly social separatism, assumed by elites who have never been so cloned. .

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers “A compulsory universal national service would only increase school dropouts and inequalities”

Another objective of the UNS is formulated as follows: “Support social and professional integration”. Is it necessary to remember that this is, first of all, the role of the school: to train, of course, the worker, but also the man and the citizen, because professional integration and social integration are linked. However, the 2019 reform of the vocational high school, less relayed than the reform of the general high school – the middle and privileged classes who do not put their children there -, reduced, over the three years of the professional baccalaureate, the general lessons of several dozens of hours of French, history-geography and moral and civic education, etc. Less time to open up to the world, to cultivate oneself, which is contradictory with the objective of transmitting a “republican base” to all young people. What becomes of the common culture that should unite citizens, whoever they are? Is it the SNU that will hide such damage in two weeks?

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