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France: Education unions speak out against teacher assessment plan

A common union front in education, to which most EI French affiliates joined, has called for a strike on 15 December. Educators protest against a governmental plan aiming at having teachers’ evaluation and career advancement decided solely by school leaders.

Teachers fear the reform, if implemented, could lead to a discretionary system, since it suppresses the assessment done by the independent body of school inspectors, school leaders becoming the sole authorities charged with evaluating educators. School inspectors, in the current assessment system, are specialised educators, evaluating their peers in the same field on the followed curriculum and their pedagogical methods and deciding about their career and salary development regularly.

According to the SNES-FSU union, “school leaders, through their recruitment, through their training, do not have the required competences to evaluate curricula. Neither do they possess the capacity to appreciate teachers’ pedagogical and didactical choices, closely related to curricula.”

The union added this planned reform “shows that what happens in the classroom is no more, in the Minister’s eyes, the key mission of teachers, the latter understanding this as a mark of contempt towards their profession. It seems the Minister prefers urging teachers to focus on ancillary tasks, not the core of the teacher activity.”

UNSA-Education, another EI French affiliate, also urged the Education Ministry to engage “in real and in-depth negotiation.”

It stressed: “a ‘leak’ revealed the existence of a bill fundamentally modifying, not only education staff’ assessment methods, but also the management of their career development. Such an important change cannot be decided upon without real negotiations, particularly on individual and collective guarantees education staff are entitled to expect.” It added “assessment would be done by the immediate hierarchical supervisor without, at secondary level, the necessary cross-evaluation by the pedagogical inspection body.”

EI European Director, Martin Rømer, called on national authorities “to engage in immediate negotiations with union federations on teachers’ evaluation, to implement clear and democratic assessment and career advancement methods.”

Indicating also that “any evaluation of the quality of education provided by any public education institution must not be based solely on student achievement test scores but take into account a range of factors related to the context of the school and the class,” he expressed its concerns that “assessment systems may become a political and economic tool to promote privatisation, private assessment agencies using inappropriate assessment tools designed for use in business, not in schools.”

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