Despite numerous local experiments, social diversity at school represents a challenge for the government, which is presenting a new action plan.
The French pupils do not mix, or too little. This observation, made several years ago, was recently corroborated by official statistics with the publication in October by the Ministry of National Education of the social position indices (IPS) of schools and colleges, then high schools in January.
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This indicator, which averages the GPI of their students, establishes the level or social profile of an establishment. In concrete terms, the lower the value, the more the school, college or high school welcomes disadvantaged students. Conversely, the highest values designate establishments that concentrate the most privileged families. At the student level, this statistical tool developed by the National Education in 2016 determines his social position, taking into account the profession of his parents, but also their income, their diplomas and other cultural data. The results are clear: they confirm the existence of a between oneself, both in the most affluent and underprivileged areas. While Minister Pap Ndiaye is due to present a plan on social diversity at the end of the month, franceinfo explains why successive governments have come up against this issue.
Because there are many territorial disparities
All schools do not have the same social compositions, and this can be observed at several levels. “There is a fairly large gap between establishments in mainland France and those in overseas territories”, illustrates Sylvain Genevois, lecturer in geography and qualified in education sciences at the University of Reunion. If the average IPS of colleges is around 103 at the national level, it thus drops to 51.3 in an establishment in Maripasoula, Guyana. Conversely, this figure reaches 157.6 in a public college in Buc, in the Yvelines. Similarly, in Paris, “the gap is considerable between the west of Paris, which is more affluent, and the east, or even Seine-Saint-Denis”specifies the teacher-researcher.
Another notable disparity: the divide between establishments located in towns and those located in rural areas, or far from major cities. “The executives are concentrated in the big cities, so their children too”, explains Marie Duru-Bellat, a sociologist specializing in education issues. According to her, it has long been forgotten that children who live far from urban areas were also “often very far from certain cultural resources”.
Within large cities, the disparities are even greater between the city center and the suburbs, adds Sylvain Genevois. This is explained by the “process of urban segregation related to employment and housing” that exist there, he explains. In other words, the most advantaged schools are where the wealthiest families reside.
Because the school map has perverse effects…
This phenomenon is reinforced by the school map, which since 1963 has made it possible to distribute the pupils in the establishments by dividing the territory into several sectors. As summarized by Julien Grenet, associate professor at the Paris School of Economics, in the current system, “an address corresponds to a school or college” : students are directly assigned to the school or college attached to the sector of their residence. The problem is that “from one neighborhood to another, the sociology of a territory can vary enormouslyyou”, explains the researcher. Such a distribution therefore inevitably reproduces the inequalities of the territories and “separates people” rather than mixing them. “There are school sectors that only include HLM bars”illustrates this specialist in the economy of education.
“The school map is a very bad tool for social diversity, because it is modeled on the residential segregation that exists in France.”
Julien Grenet, professor at the Paris School of Economics
For example, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, the Georges Clemenceau college concentrates “more than 50% of disadvantaged students”, while a few hundred meters further, “on the other side of Boulevard Barbès”the Roland Dorgelès secondary school has “less than 10% disadvantaged students”, details Julien Grenet. According to ministry data, the first college has a GPI of 75.6, compared to 109.8 for the neighboring college – a difference of nearly 35 points.
Such a distribution “does not create a favorable context for student progress”, points out Marie Duru-Bellat. And for good reason: according to the sociologist, self-segregation has always been an obstacle to academic success. Dn a note published in July 2022, the ministry also recognizes that “the concentration of social difficulties in a school is detrimental to the success of the pupils who are educated there, even if they generally benefit from additional teaching resources which make it possible to attenuate the effects of segregation”. According to a Pisa study conducted in 2019 (PDF document)France is the OECD country where social origin has the strongest impact on school results.
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A finding that successive governments have tried to erase, in particular through the implementation of the priority education policy, which allocates additional resources to the most disadvantaged establishments, classified REP or REP+. But here again, the school map has led in recent years to another major dysfunction: the existence of“orphan schools” forgotten by this priority education system. In concrete terms, these are primary schools whose GPI is less than 78 and which, because of their attachment to a secondary school in an unclassified REP or REP+ sector, escape the system and the State aid which accompany. These schools, the existence of which had been revealed in a report published in 2019, were 501 in number for the start of the 2021 school year, according to National Education. The Lille academy alone, which brings together the departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais, had 74 at that time.
… and that it was never really reformed
Since its introduction, the school map has changed little. And for good reason, “it is very difficult to touch it”recalls Julien Grenet, who explains that “moving a street to another sector can quickly cause frustration for families”. After having initially wanted to remove it, the government reformed it in 2007 under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, by arranging the possibilities of derogations and by encouraging the heads of establishments to favor the requests of scholarship students. But this relaxation did not have the desired effect. In fact, theequests for derogations have multiplied, but not necessarily for the categories concerned: “Few scholarship holders asked for it”notes Julien Grenier.
In 2015, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, then Minister of Education under François Hollande, presented a plan to “strengthening social diversity” at school including the launch of local experiments in 17 departments. “Several leads have been developed”, details Julien Grenet. Among them, the redrawing of the school map to make certain sectors more mixed, or the creation of multi-college sectors, where students can request to integrate several establishments, with a system of assignment wishes.
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The city of Toulouse even went so far as to close two suburban establishments between 2017 and 2019 to promote social diversity, by distributing their students to 11 colleges in the city center. “The results are very encouraging”, says Sébastien Vincini, president (PS) of the Haute-Garonne departmental council. The second promotion of students to have taken advantage of the mixed program “achieved a success rate of 70.6%” in the patent tests, according to the department, against 63% in 2021.
For Julien Grenet, “these experiments could inspire the government”, but we must not forget that many of them “were made in pain”. Sébastien Vincini recognizes in this respect the need for a period of adaptation. “Coeducation is bringing together students who did not meet”he adds.
Because the wealthiest families concentrate in the private sector
“We knew it, the private rather attracts a certain public”, admits Marie Duru-Bellat. Behind this term, the sociologist has in mind above all students from the most privileged backgrounds. Indeed, the IPS data published by the ministry confirmed the idea of a concentration of wealthy families in private colleges and high schools. Conversely, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are more often concentrated in public establishments. “This dichotomy is observed in particular in large cities, and particularly in Paris”, she notes. In the 2021-2022 school year, nearly 97% of colleges with an IPS below 80 were public. The more the index increases, the more the share of public colleges decreases. Result: during the same year, a little more than 78% of colleges with an IPS greater than 140 were private establishments under contract.
It should not be forgotten that some parents often try to circumvent the card by choosing not to put their child in the secondary school, and by going to seek a more distant private establishment. “to find a certain framework”, explains the sociologist. According to Julien Grenet, this “avoidance strategy” accounts for almost a third of the social segregation that exists in schools. At the origin of this gap is also the freedom of recruitment enjoyed by heads of establishments in the private sector, which is not concerned by the school map. “They are not held accountable for the students they select”, recalls Marie Duru-Bellat. The Minister could soon tackle this situation: during an interview in “C dans l’air”, on February 15, Pap Ndiaye affirmed that he wanted to think about “involve the private sector under contract” in this effort of social diversity.