France and PISA: spurring reform?

©AFP/Pascal Pavani

The results of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, which assesses competence of 15-years-old students in maths, reading and science in 65 countries, delivered a rather unsatisfactory report card for France. PISA lands at a time when the debate on the future of the French educational system has heated up, with key reforms in the pipeline. Will the 2012 PISA survey help? We asked Education Minister Vincent Peillon to highlight the main lessons.

What do you make of the PISA study, and what is France doing in particular to improve student performance?

The PISA 2012 findings confirm the trends that have been emerging for several years now from other national and international assessments of the state of the French education system: despite a massive opening-up of secondary education, we have been unable to help all of our students reach a satisfactory level. Too many students are experiencing difficulties–and that proportion has even grown over the past 10 years–and what our schools are doing is worse than perpetuating social inequalities; they are actually exacerbating those inequalities.

Over the past year and a half we have undertaken a profound overhaul of our school system, with the aim of reducing inequalities and promoting successful schooling for all. PISA 2012 corroborates our analysis and highlights the fact that we are heading in the right direction; in fact, it prompts us to speed up our reforms.

To stop the declining average level of our students, the first task is to take care of those in greatest difficulty. It is important to understand that the attention paid to students experiencing the greatest difficulties does not adversely affect those who do well–quite the opposite. Indeed, the best students do not need others to fail in order to succeed. Moreover, the teaching methods that have been developed to guide those struggling to learn are a benefit to all. PISA comparisons bear this out: the systems that are most egalitarian, that are most effective in combating forms of social determinism and differential educational levels, are in many cases the ones that perform the best–I am thinking here of Canada or Finland.

We have therefore decided to concentrate the new resources at our disposal on combating difficulty at school and social inequalities. We know that seeds of academic failure are sown when basic skills are not assimilated during early years. Therefore we are assigning top priority to primary schools. This priority has led to several thousand new primary-school teaching positions, making it possible to institute innovative and effective teaching methods: for example, we are allocating more teachers than classes in some schools to monitor students’ progress as closely as possible; we are increasing the enrolment of children under 3 years of age, to foster language learning and prepare very young children for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

What teacher-specific measures could make a difference?

The OECD emphasises this in all of its reports: well-trained teachers are the main key to success. We are therefore re-orienting teacher training towards pedagogical skills so that new teachers can ease gradually into their profession. To get results more quickly, we are also devoting substantial effort to continuing training, using digital technology in particular. In addition, the current curricula do not enable teachers to ensure that their students master the most basic core skills. Henceforth, curricula will be formulated in cycles, and their complete overhaul will make them coherent and effective tools which teachers can put to practical use, rather than catalogues of knowledge and skills to be acquired. And the ongoing discussions on the teaching profession will lead to better recognition of teachers’ commitments, within the schools, to their students’ success.

What are the main virtues of the French education system, and how do you plan to leverage them?

You are right to draw attention to this; our system has some great strengths which warrant recognition and should be developed. I am thinking in particular of our nursery schools, which need backing in their missions. Clearly, our policy towards schooling in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is facing many difficulties, but it constitutes an essential sphere of innovation; we shall be improving working conditions for the educators concerned. This is a project that I shall be launching next January. Lastly, we have achieved highly encouraging results in combatting early school-leaving, which we expect to see continuing.

See how France got on in the 2012 PISA survey at http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/PISA-2012-results-france.pdf

See also www.oecd.org/pisa/

and www.education.gouv.fr/

© OECD Observer Q4 2013




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Bill Gates visited the OECD on 26 June. He met with the Secretary-General Angel Gurría to discuss areas of collaboration with his foundation and participated at a briefing session on official development assistance modernisation with OECD experts.
  • "Countries that are home to high proportions of immigrants tend to have better integration outcomes”, according to the OECD Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015, released on 2 July 2015. Read more on The Guardian.
  • The People’s Republic of China decided to enhance longstanding collaboration with the OECD and to join the OECD Development Centre, in a historic visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on 1 July to the OECD in Paris.
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • One dollar in aid for trade generates eight dollars in extra trade for all developing countries and 20 dollars for low-income countries. Read OECD Secretary General's post on the newly released Aid for Trade at a glance 2015.
  • In the US, many part-time workers were left behind by the economic recovery. The vast majority of the nation’s 26 million part-time workers receive no benefits beyond their paychecks and almost one-third say their financial condition is flat out poor. A Market Watch article.
  • Where in the world are you most likely to be working too much—or napping? Read the results on Quartz.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Come va la vita in Italia? How's life in Italy? The OECD Better Life Index is an interactive online platform in seven languages that goes beyond GDP by offering important insights into measuring well-being and quality of life. Try it for yourself!
  • Millions of refugees have been condemned to a life of misery in the worst displacement crisis since the second world war, according to Amnesty International. Read more on The Guardian.
  • What does it mean to live on less than US$2 a day? Xavier Godinot, Delegate for International Affairs of ATD 4th World and René Locqueneux, a member of this NGO, gave an insightful presentation on the topic based on their field experience, at the 2015 OECD Forum.
  • How to jump-start slack investment to drive global growth and jobs dominated discussions at the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, chaired by the Netherlands, which ended 4 June.
  • The IMF calls for a decisive energy subsidy reform in order to use the freed resources to meet critical public spending needs and to reduce pollution ahead of the Paris climate change summit.
  • More than 35 million young people, aged 16-29, across OECD countries are neither employed nor in education or training according to the newly released OECD Skills Outlook.
  • Have a look at these posters representing a world without fundamental rights at work – including child labour, forced labour and inequality. Read more about this ILO image competition here.
  • Rising inequality threatens social cohesion and growth. Income inequality has reached historical highs in most OECD countries and is still rising.
  • Time to vote! As the dust settles after the UK general election, let’s remember that voting at the ballot box is not an innate right enjoyed by everyone. Indeed, although the number of democracies across the world has spiked from 48 in 1989 up to 95 today, billions of people are still living in non-democratic, authoritarian regimes.
  • How can we achieve a zero-carbon future? A new World Bank report provides a few insights.
  • Today alcohol causes more deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS, violence and tuberculosis combined. In order to reduce damages to health, the OECD recommends that regular drinkers reduce their consumption by one unit a week, that is, a small glass of wine for example. In addition, increasing prices, regulating advertising, effectively treating drinking problems together with stricter police enforcement would greatly contribute to reducing damages done to individuals and society.
  • video alcohol
  • Africa vs profit shifting African countries heavily rely on the income generated by multinationals’ taxation, which can represent as much as 88% of a country’s tax base. Little wonder Africa is involved in the OECD’s initiative to address tax base erosion caused by profit shifting, known as BEPS. The need to strengthen inter-governmental co-operation to curb cross-border tax losses was reaffirmed at the Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) in Sandton on 21 April 2015.
  • Africa v. profit shifting
  • Rana Plaza
  • Wal-Mart, Other Retailers Sued over Bangladesh Factory Collapse Two years after the April 24, 2013, Bangladeshi factory collapse in the capital of Dhaka, the victims' families filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court in Washington against Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other U.S.-based companies that sourced out their products from the Rana factory. Read more on Telesur's website.
  • Today, after three years of drought, California is in the midst of a full-blown political and environmental crisis, with restrictions imposed across the state, reports the Financial Times.
  • Lack of water holding back Asian growth In Asia, the world’s most dynamic region with the fastest economic growth, 75% of countries face serious water shortages.
  • ADB water
  • Why is the gap between rich and poor growing despite rises in GDP? Do benefits help? Does aid work? (The Guardian)
  • Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis expressed its scepticism towards the Eurozone’s institutions and gave ideas for ways forward. "Greece must become reformable again", Yanis Varoufakis said.
  • Business brief: Israel's water
  • #OECD360: Your country in figures.
  • How to ensure transparency in public procurement? Read Cobus de Swardt's article on OECD Insights.
  • Asia to maintain a strong 6.3% growth rate in 2015 and 2016, according to the Asian Development Bank
  • After three decades of extraordinary economic development, China is shifting to a slower and more sustainable growth path, according to the OECD's latest Economic Survey of China.
  • In pursuit of the American Dream
  • Iceland's strong recovery stems from the good use of its natural resources, the energy sector and tourism according to Peter Dohlman, IMF Mission Chief for Iceland.
  • cyclone
  • Government representatives and experts from around the world are gathering in Japan this week to develop a post-2015 framework for global disaster risk reduction. The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) will share expertise at the conference.
  • Switzerland’s recent moves towards greater tax transparency were welcomed by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, based at the OECD, as a boost to international efforts to end tax evasion. Work will continue with Switzerland, notably on implementation, in 2015.
  • Help bridge the gap between business integrity policies & practices:participate in this new OECD survey by clicking on the image.
  • What can we do to promote better literacy skills for all? Read Andreas Schleicher's latest blog on oecdeducationtoday.
  • Secretary General Angel Gurría describes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as a useful tool to enhance educational systems but states that improving a country's ranking should not be a goal per se. Article in Spanish by El País.
  • pisa
  • [VIDEO] Although many countries have made great progress in narrowing gender gaps in education, new challenges are looming.
  • Tim Harcourt Video
  • G20 and Australia: Bestselling economist Tim Harcourt speaks to the BBC about how Australia has gone from "Down Under to Down Wonder".

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2015?

Euro crisis
Unemployment
Global warming
International conflict
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2015