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.

“The schools where we do best. » Tirelessly, in the press, on the screens, the rankings follow one another – in Paris, in Marseilles, on the Côte d’Azur –, on the model of business schools, clinics or cities where to spend one’s old age… Nothing very new therefore, except that it is a question here of primary schools. And that the success in question has nothing to do with the quality of teaching or the investment of teachers. These are the schools attended by the toddlers of the wealthiest French people, classified according to indices of social position, indicators which make it possible to apprehend the social status of the pupils, accessible to the public. (since October 2022) after a decision of the Administrative Court of Paris.

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These indicators, constructed from the professions declared by the parents, largely determine the map of priority education, that is to say the schools where the socio-economic difficulties of families justify additional investment. Implemented from 1981 following the urban riots in Vénissieux, priority education is precisely the result of the desire to restore equality in the face of school, by providing more resources to respond to the difficulties of those who have the Not needed anymore.

Forty years later, priority education is above all a foil. Research has abundantly shown how families implement complex strategies to extract their children from certain stigmatized establishments, in particular through the choice of rare languages ​​or popular options. To defend mixed education, the national education system has therefore endeavored to restrict optional courses and flexible timetables, deemed to be favorable to “school separatism”.

big gap

The ace ! In an enlightening note (from July 2022) dedicated to the evolution of co-education in secondary schools, the ministry’s statistical department shows that, since 2003, the decline in social inequalities between public secondary schools has been fully offset by a corresponding increase between public and private secondary schools. The more we force families to mix, the more they resort to the private sector to escape it! This phenomenon is particularly marked when switching to 6ewhich sees the share of pupils educated in the private sector under contract increase from 14% to 22% (in 2021) !

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