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Challenges and tendencies - France

One of the present challenges of the French National Education system is to manage the heterogeneity that characterizes the profile of classes, and in particular to decrease the percentage of pupils in great educational difficulty.  The setting up of learning cycles is an answer supplied by the General Policy Law 1989. The General Policy and Program Law for the Future of Education of 2005 continues the policy of cycles and stresses a personalised approach for pupils who encounter learning difficulties. In this context assessment practices play an increasingly important role.  Thus, the circular Assessment 2005 , as we have seen, confirms the diagnostic assessment of the beginning of the CE2 school year and announces widespread use of a new software package that will facilitate the identification of successes and the analysis of possible difficulties encountered by the pupils.

How can we create a link between the assessment of the pupil’s needs and a traditional “medical-psychometric” approach?

The interministerial circular   on care for persons suffering from autism and invasive development difficulties perfectly illustrates this problem.  Indeed on the one hand it must be noted that this circular is co-signed by the Minister of National Education, the Minister of Solidarities, Health and the Family, and the State Secretary for disabled persons. This plural approach facilitates the link between two types of assessment.  In addition this circular discusses the question of the diagnosis of invasive problems made by a doctor.  At the same time however, it is specified that the diagnosis calls for two types of investigation:

  • complementary examinations and reviews
  • a thorough assessment aimed at exploring children’s skills and deficits, indispensable for preparing a personalised educational plan in response to needs evaluated.

The link is immediately created between medical diagnosis, assessment of needs, and adapted response. 

How are the results provided by national assessments used to inform lawmakers?

The national assessments are undeniable resources which make it possible to evaluate the pupils’ level of knowledge.  The results are useful at the national level, in particular to the Higher Council of Education (Haut Conseil de l’Education), which has taken on the task of analysing the results at the level of each region and département for educational co-ordination.  At these two levels the persons in charge (the rector or the Inspector of the Regional Educational Division, l’Inspecteur d’Académie) compare and analyse the results obtained by the different schools.  The assessments constitute a sum of indicators which make possible a certain degree of co-ordination. The schools however, do not have all the results.  Thus they can compare their results only to a global result of a group of schools.  This state of affairs does therefore not lead to pressure from parents who might wish to compare different schools individually.  In France moreover, the results obtained are in no way related to the resources that might be allocated by towns.

In conclusion, we cannot speak of a radical change in legislative policy on learning assessment in France but rather of continuity in the determination to succeed in better managing the heterogeneity that characterizes present classes in elementary school. The challenge is to make sure that assessment practices are not considered as techniques but that they are based on an ethical principle: understand in order to encourage progress.

  

Sources:

  • Assessment 2005:  Circular 05-096 of June 24, 2005, BO n°25 of June 30, 2005. 
  • Interministerial circular 2005-124 of March 8, 2005, BO n°15 of April 14, 2005.
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