Thursday, April 12, 2012

Inequality in Education

This is not news, to be sure, but it's always interesting to be reminded that despite the Republic's ostensible commitment to equality, spending on education varies widely with location:
Même si la situation est ancienne, le gouvernement n'a aucun intérêt à laisser sortir ces comparaisons, qui montrent qu'en 2010 l'Etat a dépensé 47 % de plus pour former un élève parisien que pour former un banlieusard de Créteil ou de Versailles. 51 % de plus pour former un Parisien qu'un Niçois... Il est décrit, noir sur blanc, comment sous couvert d'une éducation censée offrir à tous la même chose, voire donner plus à ceux qui ont moins, l'école française entérine des situations acquises qui sont profondément injustes. Paris a des enseignants expérimentés, une offre de formation bien plus large que d'autres académies et, même si son taux d'encadrement n'est pas plus élevé, cela privilégie le Parisien.


Web Logos said...

The impression I get is that this is not the result of an intentional policy on the part of the UMP government, but rather the reflection of outcomes within the Grand Mammouth that is the MNE. And the head minister doesn't have much control on the arbitrages that take place between Grenelle & the Academies.

At the root of France's educational system are the competing (contradictory?) missions to both at once provide quality education to all and select the future ruling elites. The bureaucratic apparatus of the State usually ends up being the place where zero-sum decisions are made.

Just a hunch, I guess, but I'm just not all that surprized. A Socialist government would perhaps reduce such disparities but mostly at the margins, like maybe lessen the gap between Paris & Nice by 23,67% and make sure that a 3.4% increase in the number of 2 year olds going to school in Seine Saint Denis takes place. Tinkering at the edges, quoi. But not much more than that.

Anonymous said...

Some nitpicks: expenses for primary schools doesn't correlate with actual expenses, but rather, with rural areas where maintaining schools is more expensive. These kids don't get a better education, they just get AN education.
Also, agrégés aren't better teachers, they're just better paid because they got higher university credentials at age 24. That does not correlate to a better education for the kids even if the teachers "cost" more.

Apparently, in the past 7 years the French system has become THE MOST unequal. It creates and reinforces inequalities.
I can't imagine that France is that worse than other European countries.
I understand the need to select an elite. But France doesn't select an elite. It excludes whole classes of kids based on their parents' educational or economic achievement. Not on their resourcefulness, creativity, mind power, skills, etc.
Today I learned that 42% 3 year olds were in preschool 10 years ago, in 2011 the number had dropped to 10%, with the poorest areas the hardest hit.
The change in just 5 years is enormous. If a teacher's absent, no one comes to sub. For weeks. Even in bac classes. (Which is like having your AP exam and no one to teach the class for a month or two, and your opportunity to go to college depending on it.)
Right now, you have classes of 28 in 1st grade (when officially they wanted classes of 12 for reading lessons...)
There wasn't a lot of special ed to start with; now, there's none. If you've got a disability, you're out of luck. MAYBE you'll be allowed into a vocational diploma track. In most cases, you'll be considered "schooled" if you come to class a couple times a week, perhaps for 1 hour each time. (I've met parents whose daughter is considered "schooled" since she comes for 45mn a week. The mother has to take a half day off because there's no one to wheel her around; she can't be in classrooms with kids because they're not accessible. I've heard of dyslexic kids considered "slow" while they were not provided with ANY support. And not in a "reflexive" way. If you can't read at the end of 1st grade you're considered too hopelessly behind, adults are fatalistic and think nothing can be done, since anyway there's NO ONE to help you bring those reading skills up.)
Foreign language classes with that many kids, or more, is also frequent -you wonder how they learn anything (I know that in the past French classes had a lot of students, but the focus was on translating, whereas today the focus is on communicating, and 28 or 32 teens communicating out aloud but softly so as to not bother the others while being totally on task is... just not possible.)
Kids whose parents have time, money, and knowledge can figure it out. But most of them aren't in these schools, which adds to the unequality described in the article.
It's especially damning since France so badly considers itself "the land of equality".

Merlin said...

As usual my dear, you go a long way in showing your good bleeding heart without any analysis of the actual facts.

Despite all those years in Anglo-saxon country, you've stayed very French; beaucoup de mousse avec pas d'oeuf. Just read this:

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's any "bleeding heart" in any analysis (Le Monde's, Art's, or the commenters'). I think we all agree that education is essential for a democracy and for our "knowledge economy". There are great inequalities in France and there are reasons why it's become the most unequal education system in Europe (or is that in the OECD?)
Add to this the myth of l'école de la république, the great emphasis on equality, and all kinds of things that might have been true once but aren't anymore yet are so cherished people believe them true, and you end up with a pseudo-scientific article such as le Monde's, nevertheless describing an actual reality.
Class size is one problem, equal quality of education another one, etc, etc. hard to pinpoint what's wrong.
The US is wondering the same thing too: TFA? Race to the top? Teacher rankings in newspapers? There are many factors.
For example, take material comfort, space, facilities, amenities; compared to American schools, French schools often lack in amenities and the classrooms tend to be small (some are downright dingy). How does that factor in?

I'd be interested in a comparison of Title I funds v. banlieue school funds.

I'm kind of shocked that they can't add local expenditure to national expenditure though. In order to understand how unequal funding really is, we need these numbers.
I'm also kind of shocked that a prépa student "costs" so much (or rather, that they get such a high amount compared to primary, secondary, and university students.) Of course another way to look at it could be: why aren't university students similarly funded?
However, the way kids who are "different" (disabled, gifted..) are treated here is disgracious.

Anonymous said...

(Myos, having forgotten to sign to boot)