2 February 2024

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.

For the first time this year, final year students took their baccalaureate in March. This change in the calendar is justified by the new methods of student assessment provided for by the reform of the baccalaureate of the former Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer and the political scientist Pierre Mathiot. If the philosophy and the great oral always take place in June, the specialty tests now take place in March so that their results appear in the Parcoursup file.

Thus, higher education establishments, which examine student files in April and May, can take these scores into account in their selection criteria. But if these new methods of evaluating the baccalaureate destabilize the course of the school year, they also revive the debate on the respective advantages and disadvantages of continuous assessment or final assessment in the assessment of students at the baccalaureate.

On the face of it, continuous assessment seems fairer than end-of-training assessment, since it takes into account all the results and efforts of the students during the year. It therefore avoids basing success in the exam on a “cleaver” ordeal in which poor performance – always possible – can be fatal. However, teachers are hostile to continuous monitoring because of the many perverse effects it generates (pressure on teachers, development of strategic absenteeism, increased stress for some students). In addition, it is not certain that this type of evaluation promotes learning, since with the final examination the students are obliged to revise the program twice: once during the year to prepare for their current evaluations year, then a second time for the exam, which is not the case with continuous assessment.

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But the main problem of the latter lies above all in the methods of evaluation which vary from one establishment or from one teacher to another. Indeed, the continuous assessment is not always predictive of the level of the pupils because the teachers also include in the marks the results of tests other than “bac type” homework (oral mark, course assessment, TD). Since the high school reform and the break-up of the class group it caused, “bac-type” homework is more and more difficult to organize anyway.

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