2 February 2024

In debates and reflections on social diversity at school, it is no longer possible to look away from private education. The Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, says it himself bluntly: “If private education under contract is not involved, social mix policies (…) if not doomed to failure, at least very limited. » Politicians are beginning to grasp this issue. After an amendment to the education budget tabled in the fall of 2022 by La France insoumise, it was the turn of French Communist Party senator Pierre Ouzoulias (Hauts-de-Seine) to present, on Tuesday April 11, a proposal for law “aimed at authorizing the public authorities to condition the subsidies granted to private establishments under contract to criteria of social and academic diversity”.

Read also: School diversity: sometimes huge socio-economic gaps between neighboring colleges

Three-quarters financed by public money and free to recruit their students, unlike public education, private colleges under contract enroll less than 17% of students from disadvantaged social backgrounds and concentrate 40% of very advantaged students, strictly opposite proportions in the public sector. The publication of social position indices (IPS) by the Ministry of National Education in October 2022 has shed light on the extent of this divergence, showing that private establishments represent less than 4% of the 10% most disadvantaged colleges in the country, but nearly two-thirds of the top 10%. And the divide has only accelerated in recent years under the effect of avoidance, annihilating the effects of the policies of social diversity carried out in the public.

“It’s not a school problem., it is a fundamentally political problem, estimates Yves Durand, former socialist deputy and author of a parliamentary report on social diversity at school in 2015. Without social and academic diversity, there is no equal opportunity, no social cohesion, no republican promise. »

A commitment from the Minister

Involving the private sector in social diversity policies is one of the commitments made by Pap Ndiaye, who has been promising a plan for several months in this area, the announcement of which has been repeatedly postponed until the calendar is sclerotic by the political and social crisis linked to the pension reform. On this undermined subject, a real political taboo since the last battle of the “school war” on the project to create a major public and secular education service, abandoned by Minister Alain Savary in 1984 after a strong mobilization, the Minister advance on a ridge line. “In my opinion, two pitfalls are to be avoided”he told the Senate in early March: the first would be to “do not ask anything from private establishments under contract (…) and to leave private education under contract free to act as it wishes”the second would be “to pass (this last) under the Caudine forks of public education”.

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