1 December 2023

“More diversity is the best trajectory”, boasted the Minister of Education Pap Ndiaye during his visit to a college in Bordeaux in early March. However, the announcement of a plan in favor of social diversity at school, which he presented as one of his priorities, was postponed several times, before being postponed. sine die, victim of the political crisis linked to the pension reform.

Reflections on the lack of social mixing in schools are not new, but have been highlighted by the recent publication by the Ministry of National Education of social position indices (IPS) for colleges and high schools, a key indicator for assessing the differences between the social profiles of pupils depending on the establishment.

What is IPS?

The social position index, created in 2016, assigns a “score” between 45 and 185 to each student depending on the socio-professional category of both parents. The average calculated at school level makes it possible to situate the social profile of its students.

Created in 2016, and for a long time confined to a simple internal tool of national education, the IPS was made public for the first time for high schools in October 2022, and for colleges in January 2023, following insistent requests of journalists.

Published in February, the data on the standard deviation of the GPI within the establishments makes it possible to appreciate the dispersion, or conversely the concentration, of the social configurations of the pupils around the average value of the GPI d ‘a middle-school. The lower the standard deviation, the more the school is socially homogeneous, the higher it is, the more varied the social composition of the pupils.

These data confirm the extent to which social diversity is a distant goal, hampered by territorial disparities – large cities have both the highest rates of segregation and the highest IPS – and a strong gap between public and private .

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  • Located at the bottom right of the graph above, the colleges where the population is very advantaged and homogeneous are, unsurprisingly, essentially private establishments: 7% of private colleges (120 out of 1,683) have an IPS higher than 140 (largely above the national average of 103). About sixty of them have a very strong social homogeneity, with a standard deviation of less than 25.
  • In the public sector, on the other hand, social homogeneity is found in establishments with a low IPS (bottom left of the graph) and testifies to a concentration of pupils from very disadvantaged social backgrounds: 194 of the 5,331 public colleges have an IPS below 90.
  • The top of the “bell” of the graph concentrates the majority of colleges, with a more heterogeneous profile: 87% of public establishments (whose average IPS range between 80 and 130) and 87% of those in the private sector (with average IPS between 80 and 130). However, shifting the scatter plot between public colleges, upwards, and private colleges, downwards, reveals an overall higher mix in the public sector.

This finding matches the dynamics observed by the Ministry of National Education. “The differences in social composition between the public and private sectors are growing, with the private sector educating more and more pupils from privileged backgrounds, underlines the direction of the evaluation, the prospective and the performance (DEPP, statistical service of the ministry) in a note of July 2022 devoted to the evolution of the mixity in the colleges. At the start of the 2021 school year, 40.1% of private sector students under contract are from a very privileged social background, compared to 19.5% in the public sector. Conversely, 18.3% of pupils in the private sector under contract are from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to 42.6% of pupils in the public sector. »

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“Very clear avoidance strategies”

How to explain the lack of diversity in many establishments? A study published in 2021 devoted to the link between “urban segregation and college choice”conducted by researchers from INSEE and DEPP suggests “that at least half of the level of school segregation is due to the initial residential segregation, induced by the strict application of the school map”. Avoidance towards the private sector accentuates school segregation, “from a third for the urban areas of Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand, to almost half in Paris”.

At the start of the 2021 school year, “more than 92,000 students were educated in a very disadvantaged college located less than fifteen minutes on foot from a very privileged collegesays economist Youssef Souidi, who works on school segregation. In almost nine out of ten cases, it is a public college located next to a private college, updating very clear avoidance strategies. This finding tends to relativize the idea that the most disadvantaged colleges are necessarily disadvantaged, because of their location in isolated neighborhoods, exclusively populated by poor households. »

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It is indeed striking to note that two establishments that are geographically close can have social profiles at opposite poles, without this always being explained by the public-private duality. Thus, the Grand Parc college in Bordeaux, where Minister Pap Ndiaye came to talk about diversity in March, is the most disadvantaged of the public colleges of the academy. Only nine minutes away on foot, the Cassignol public college is one of the most exclusive.

An observation which is confirmed on the scale of France: according to the calculations of the World, no fewer than 7,852 colleges were located in 2021-2022 less than three kilometers as the crow flies from another establishment with a significantly different IPS (with a difference of at least 20 points).

The study of these “pairs” of very contrasting colleges confirms that pupils from the most privileged families are turning more and more to private establishments to escape their local college.

In the majority of cases identified by The world (57%), it is a private establishment which takes in the most advantaged pupils in the neighborhood to the detriment of the public establishment – ​​the opposite phenomenon only concerns 3% of cases. This trend has also increased by 16% between 2016 and 2021, reducing an already struggling social mix. An observation that Minister Pap Ndiaye endorsed by declaring the end of 2022 in The world that “private education under contract will have to make its contribution to this effort. » In other words, summarizes Youssef Souidi, “without strong action on the private sector, it is difficult to see how to improve things”.

These unpublished data also reveal strong disparities within public education itself, with 2,643 pairs of public colleges that are geographically close, but with very divergent social profiles, like the two Bordeaux establishments mentioned above.

To combat this phenomenon, an experiment carried out on the school map, in particular in Paris on three pairs of colleges, ended in results “promising wherever there was a potential for diversity”, according to Julien Grenet, Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Policy and author of an evaluation report on the Parisian case. The dreaded flight of advantaged students to the private sector has not taken place.

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But the extension of the device was then buried because “local elected officials, even when this is in accordance with their values, do not wish to lose an electorate of parents of privileged pupils who express their opposition in local consultations which often turn into fistfights”, analyzes the researcher. To date, no experiments are in progress.

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