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France: Teachers’ unions in reform consultations

EI’s French affiliates are preparing to draw up a report on the most important reforms for the education sector. This follows a consultation process launched in July by the Education Minister, Vincent Peillon, on the restructuring of the education system. The education unions have revealed their proposals which may contribute to education system reform legislation.

 

The consultation, launched on 5 July by the Education Minister and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, brings together around 600 people, including teachers, sociologists, pupils’ parents, employers, elected officials, and education officers. A steering committee will submit a report to the minister by 15 October, with a bill for reform of the education system to be introduced shortly afterwards.

These discussions will continue until the end of September, on four themes:

o   Success in school (with the emphasis on primary education as a common core)

o   The pupils (the length of the school term, the fight against violence)

o   An effective education system (the development of digital resources)

o   Staff (training and assessments)

The ministry has launched a website for the consultation (in French): http://www.refondonslecole. gouv.fr.

More than 3,000 contributions were gathered in August, coming, for the most part, from teachers.

UNSA-Education: Duty of education

In a document entitled “For an educational society, let’s rethink school!” (in French), the UNSA-Education Federation (the Education branch of the National Union of Independent Trade Unions) reaffirms that the duty of the education system is to offer the framework and the means for everyone to achieve success. This means taking into account the needs of all different kinds of students and especially those who are the most vulnerable.

The Federation rejects a utilitarian vision of education. The education system has to work, at every level and in all situations, towards the creation of free, self-sufficient, responsible, critical citizens. The system mustemphasisepersonal development and the acquisition of common cultural references which can be shared by all.

Restructuring

Restructuring the education system must take the following three elements into account:

o   A recognition of the fact that education takes place not only in schools but outside them (in the family, through popular education)

o   The establishment of a new common skills and knowledge base, which each individual should have acquired by the school-leaving age upon completing his or her compulsory education

o   The structure of the Baccalaureat – 3/bac, +3+5 which allows a variety of different paths in the final years, enabling students to choose their orientation andemphasisinglearning to be self-sufficient

The Federation views primary education as the first link in the scholastic chain, and the first stage in acquiring a common skills and knowledge base. It suggests that compulsory education should begin at three years of age, and secondary schooling should be reformed in order to focus on success.

Staff development

UNSA-Education also believes that teacher training is at the heart of education reform. This process must be undertaken at universities. While the trainee teacher should improve their own knowledge base, the emphasis must be placed on acquiring teaching methods, pedagogical excellence, an understanding of their target audiences and how groups function, as well as lecturing and public speaking.

As is the case in all professions, teacher training must not be limited to the initial year, which is why UNSA-Education suggests compulsory continued professional development for all teachers.

UNSA-Education alsoemphasisesthe necessity of a staff evaluation policy in keeping with the development of the education system it supports. This would involve new provisions based on the “shared perspective” of management and inspectorate. In the case of primary education, this double perspective would be offered by the national education inspectors.

FSU: Long-term goals

According to the Federation Syndicale unitaire (FSU – a public sector workers’ union), of which the SNES (a secondary school teachers’ union and EI affiliate) is a member, “the new legislation on education reform must provide the foundation for a new education system for the long term”.

The FSU is committed to promoting “an alternative secular education system, one which is more democratic, more egalitarian and fairer. An education system designed first and foremost for those furthest from it and truly aimed at success for all, at all levels of schooling, from pre-school to higher education.

“This necessitates in particular: restructuring the curriculum in order to make it meaningful for all students and more relevant to contemporary society; relying on Education staff; and restructuring priority education in tandem with other public policies needed in underprivileged areas,” said the FSU in a statement on 5 July (in French).

FSU suggestions

The new law will therefore have to incorporate a certain number of the FSU’s suggestions, such as:

o   A common school system, as far is possible and for as long as possible

o   Educational support systems, personalised and individualised, which must be rethought in terms of their connections with, on the one hand, work done in class and, on the other, with access to cultural, artistic and sporting activities

Teacher evaluation

The FSU insists that the main goal of teacher evaluation by inspectors should be training support for teachers and staff. The development of research, its links with training, and encouraging innovative teaching are also considered essential.

Parental involvement

The FSU also believes that parents must be involved in the process of reforming the education system. Information about school, its operation and evolution, must be improved; relationships with teachers must be made easier; and the rights of representatives clarified and developed.

Mediation

The FSU stresses that “mediation is an important part of the learning process, and in order to learn, and to support and help children in their journey through school, we need real multidisciplinary teams composed of teachers, advisors, counsellors and psychologists,  social workers, nurses, school doctors as well as administrative and vocational staff. These different professions are all necessary in the formation of young people’s lives, and all contribute to their success. Therefore, it is necessary to consolidate the responsibilities of each of them and the training of all staff.”

Recruitment

The law, the FSU notes, must establish a recruitment plan, for the 60,000 positions which are projected to open in national education over the next five years. A system for recruiting students who intend to go into teaching, must be established.

Upgrade profession

Finally, the FSU reiterates that an upgrade of the teaching profession is one of the main expectations of those working in education.  

SNUipp-FSU: Change the status quo

For the SNUipp-FSU (the national union of primary and secondary school teachers), "our education system has been stifled and destabilised” by the elimination of positions and controversial changes. “It is time to change the status quo,” highlights a union statement (in French). “The system can count on the trust of parents and the commitment of teachers to see their pupils achieve success.”

“It is through equipping teachers better professionally that we will help all students to achieve success. For the SNUipp-FSU, teamwork (‘more teachers than classes‘) and training are the key ingredients for quality work in the service of pupils.”

New staff categories

The SNUipp-FSU believes that different professionals should be present in schools in order to create proper educational teams. New professions, like that of carers for handicapped pupils or assistant managerial positions, must be created. These members of staff, once trained and secure in their places, will contribute to the quality of school life.

Materials allowance

In addition, the growth of expenditure incurred by the acquisition of professional tools has been at the expense of staff: from computer hardware, software, teaching materials, and subscriptions to educational magazines and small items for the classroom such as youth literature or other necessities. In order to take these costs into account, the SNUipp-FSU is asking for an allowance for teaching materials of €1,500 every five years for all teachers.

New jobs

The trade union demands that primary school becomes a priority. With a ratio of five teachers for every 100 pupils, according to OECD statistics, France comes in last place among the developed nations. It adds that “by redrafting the budget so that it would match that of the average of the countries listed by the OECD (in other words increasing it by 15 per cent), 37,000 new jobs could be created in schools”.

Equipment specifications

The SNUipp also proposes setting national specifications defining the necessary equipment for a school. And it is seeking implementation of an equalisation mechanism, supplemented by state funding to help underpriviliged regions.

EI: union measures taken on board

EI is happy that its affiliates were able to participate fully in the consultation on education reform, and hopes that the French authorities will take into account their recommendations in the establishment of new measures in universal education.

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