Education: Candidates are accumulating promises, but where to find funding?

Noting that education was a topic that his competitors had rather neglected, with the exception of the revaluation of teachers’ salaries, Emmanuel Macron made it one of the priority topics of his (late) campaign entry. With a clear axis: to bring the school closer to business, in particular, by carrying out a serious reform of the secondary vocational school. Similarly, he wants to devote half a day a week to crafts in college. Very good. But the woes that our education system is suffering from are enormous and require repairs to everything from floor to ceiling. Here are three topics that should be in the spotlight.

Increasing the value of the profession and wages

It’s no secret: in scientific disciplines, the level of recruitment of teachers has fallen sharply. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of students in the Cape of Mathematics increased from 2,771 to 1,946. Due to a lack of applicants, National Education had to lower its level of competition expectations (averaging 8 out of 20 in 2020), recruiting those who would better fill vacancies.

Decision? Make your career more attractive by increasing your salary. “Grenelle de l’education has taken the first step in this direction, but the issue of promotion remains and deserves all the candidates’ attention,” explains Bruno Bobkiewicz, general secretary of SNPDEN (National Union of National Education Management Personnel). With a staff of 859,000 teachers, the amounts that must be budgeted are significant. Most candidates are willing to shell out billions without specifying where they find them.

Anne Hidalgo was the first to propose in September 2021 that teachers’ remuneration be doubled. Faced with protests from her opponents, the Socialist candidate shortened her text. He now expects a 35% increase and is promising school teachers to go from €1,700 to €2,300 a month at the start of his career. According to the Ifrap Foundation, the think tank responsible for assessing public policy, the measure will cost 14 billion euros by 2027.

Yannick Jadot advocates a 20% increase over a five-year term. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is even more greedy: he catches up with the “frozen for ten years” index point and raises wages by 30%, 15% immediately, 15% after negotiations with the unions. Cost of the operation: 17 billion euros over five years. A bill that he will fund by removing the subsidies that private education receives, in its words, “extra” from the communities. As for Marine Le Pen, she offers an annual increase of 3% for five years.

In fact, French teachers are among the lowest paid in Europe. But beware of comparisons. According to the Eurydice network, a mid-career French teacher certainly earns 33% less than his German counterpart, but “in secondary education, German teachers work 23 to 26 hours a week, compared to the 18 hour average here. Germans have 40 weeks of classes per year compared to 36 in France.

Raise your math level fast

International rankings (Timss and Pisa) follow and look the same: the level of mathematics of little Frenchmen has dropped sharply. Shame on the country of Poincaré and Alexander Grothendieck! The insufficient training of primary school teachers, mainly in the humanities or social sciences, does not help the cause either. Because the difficulties begin with cerebral palsy and worsen in the course of schooling. In 2020, according to the Timss rankings, French college students are at the bottom of the list, even finishing second to last, ahead of Chile. The 2019 undergraduate reform didn’t help by making math optional in the first year, and fewer and fewer students, especially girls, were enticed by the option.

Faced with this disturbing observation, Jean-Michel Blanquer stepped back, announcing the possible return of mathematics to the common core. “We see this drop in the level when entering our schools. We have an obligation to modernize,” warns Jacques Fayol, president of the CDEFI (Conference of Directors of French Engineering Schools).

To fix the damage, Valerie Pecresse wants to address the source of the problem by adding one hour of math a week and, by the way, two hours of French in elementary school. The same struggle with Marine Le Pen, who wants to extend the school day by one hour. A question of quantity or quality? “Are we really going to need the math we teach today?” asks Jacques Fayol. In the age of data and artificial intelligence, the question arises.

Several candidates advocate a return to basics and to the good old school. Eric Zemmour is campaigning for the restoration of memorization, the primary school blouse, the old bachelor’s series (Marine Le Pen also wants to abolish the bachelor’s reform) and the primary school certificate… Mélenchon wants to return to a class of 19 students. “First of all, it is necessary to personalize courses and give autonomy to educational institutions in order to offer alternative learning options and allow students to succeed,” says Bruno Bobkiewicz. Valerie Pekress goes down this path. He wants to create contracted public institutions inspired by American “charter schools” where teachers, parents and agency leaders have the freedom to determine an innovative educational project. His goal: by the end of the five-year plan to have 10% of institutions on this model.

Restoring the prestige of the university

All candidates on the left want to remove Parcoursup. This will not solve the glaring lack of funds at the universities! Fifteen years after the RRU (University Freedoms and Duties Act), our universities are still chronically underfunded. Universities are no longer models of success, as enrollment has increased by 20% in ten years, but the supplementary budget has increased by only 10%.

In 2020, only 2.5% of French researchers were cited in international publications compared to 41.5% of American researchers. The same disunity is at the level of funds allocated to students. While average spending per student increased by 8% between 2010 and 2016 in all OECD countries, it fell by 5% in France over the same period. Today, the state spends 10,110 euros per year per university student. This is 7% less than in 2009.

These poor ratings have revived the debate about the next reform of the system. Eric Zemmour proposes to return universities to state control, Jean-Luc Mélenchon to increase research and development efforts to 3% of GDP and provide 8,000 additional doctoral grants per year. As for Emmanuel Macron, after refuting his desire to increase registration fees at universities in January, he mentions the possibility of these institutions providing paid vocational training. Enough to complete the month, but still not enough to fund the extra 30 billion euros that universities and research will need to function properly, according to the Montaigne Institute.

The level of French students is declining not only in science


Average annual salary of primary school teachers. France has lost its place in the ranking of Pisa. Although it remains in the top quarter of the best scores, it is well behind China (591 in math and 590 in science) and Singapore (569 in math and 551 in science), which have held the top two places for several years now. Every three years, the Pisa ranking evaluates the performance of 600,000 15-year-old students at the international level in three subjects. Since the 2000s, young French scores have been in free fall: minus 12 in written comprehension, minus 22 in math, and minus 7 in science.

Teachers are among the lowest paid in Europe


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