24 November 2023

This column appears in “The World of Education”. If you are subscribed to Worldyou can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

At the heart of our social contract, the republican school today suffers from deep ills that prevent it from accomplishing its emancipatory mission. The big losers of school are the children of the working classes: far from remedying social inequalities, the current school contributes to increasing inequalities between children according to their background.

This obvious failure should lead us not only to propose putting patches on a model that has reached the end of its course, but to fundamentally question the myth of meritocracy on which our school is based.

Meritocracy claims that students are placed on an equal footing in terms of access to the knowledge provided by the school, and that the school would naturally lead to the selection of “best” regardless of their social class. However, the hierarchy of baccalaureates (general, technological, professional) which strictly reproduces that of the socio-professional categories of the parents who send their children there, constitutes one of the most obvious indications of this trickery.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The work of real equality must be Pap Ndiaye’s great mission”

Thus, according to statistics from the Ministry of National Education and reports from the National Center for the Study of School Systems, 34% of vocational baccalaureate holders are children of workers, while only 8% are children of senior executives. Conversely, 35% of pupils in 1D general and final year are children of senior executives, and only 16% children of workers. But the divergence of educational pathways according to social class does not depend on the number of years: the classes of the adapted general and vocational education sections (Segpa) in middle school are thus occupied predominantly by the working classes, only 2% of Segpa students being children of senior executives, while 38% of them are workers’ children.

Loss of self-confidence

The explanations are multiple. On the one hand, the use of pedagogies centered on evaluation which stigmatizes error from an early age traps some children very early in the vicious circle of loss of self-confidence and failure.

On the other hand, the exclusive valorization of an authorized bourgeois culture, which is that of a minority, and of certain so-called “intellectual” to the detriment of technical, artistic, sporting or relational skills, constitutes a handicap for children who are not immersed in this elitist culture. It is also necessary to be aware that the extra-curricular environment of children from well-to-do backgrounds provides the individual support and openness to the world that the mass school fails to provide, through language stays, music lessons, cultural outings, sports courses and private tutoring lessons for which France is now one of the leading markets in Europe.

You have 32.48% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *