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“Abolish orientation procedures in college to breathe the education system”

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This column appears in “Le Monde de l’éducation”. If you are subscribed to World, you can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

In France, orientation decisions deprive many young people and families of power over their future and contribute to the atmosphere of mistrust and resentment that undermines our society. In middle school, orientation procedures manage passage or repetition in a higher class. In 3ethey manage repetition, but above all the distribution between the two training paths: the general and technological high school on the one hand, and the vocational high school on the other.

These orientation procedures also have an effect on the pedagogical form. This aims to produce the differences that these procedures require and does not really allow the objective of the acquisition by all of the common base to be achieved. Finally, they have a “feedback” effect on the college’s internal organization. In order to be acceptable at the end of the course, differentiation is organized very early and circumvents the homogeneity of the single college.

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For these three reasons, we believe that it is necessary to abolish guidance procedures within the college, in order to implement real “equal rights” between citizens. By placing a prohibition for the general route [en cas de niveau trop faible]it provokes, in fact, a disqualification of the other paths in the minds of the people concerned, who remain deaf to any information or advice and render vain any attempt to revalorize the professional path.

The sorting work carried out in 3e is prepared well in advance, by a fractional distillation, officially organized by the game of specialized classes, which have flourished since the creation of the single college.

With these orientation procedures, French teachers are subject to a double constraint: to make everyone succeed and guarantee a common base of knowledge, while producing discriminating judgments justifying the sorting of pupils.

Pedagogy of success and emancipation

These practices are presented as helping to ensure fairness and equal opportunity, yet the results of PISA [Programme international pour le suivi des acquis des élèves], since the very first survey, show that not only is our system inefficient, but above all not fair, with school selection reinforcing social inequalities. In fact, the school systems which, in the eyes of PISA, bring together the greatest efficiency and the greatest social equity, following the example of Finland, Canada, Italy or Spain, do not use any marking, repetition or orientation procedures.

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