Education International
Education International

France: Inter-disciplinary teaching threat to quality education

published 11 February 2011 updated 11 February 2011

EI’s French affiliates have called into question proposals from the Minister for Education, Luc Chatel, who’s ‘Science Plan’ threatens the emphasis on good initial teacher training.

In its critique, the SNES-FSU indicated that it was ‘supportive of programmes designed to allow students to understand the links between sciences’ but it ‘rejects any initiative that could undermine the skills required for teaching specific subjects and the necessary qualifications to teach a subject at secondary level’. SNES-FSU went on to say that ‘meaningful inter-disciplinary teaching must be founded on knowledge and should not result in the loss of the specific skills required for each subject’.

UNSA-Education questioned the level of scrutiny that had been applied to the proposal to have a single teacher for earth and life sciences, physics, chemistry, and technology. It expressed anxiety that such a radical change remained an embryonic idea at this stage of the process. In relation to primary education, the union criticised ‘mental arithmetic drills and learning tables taught by rote’. It pointed out that students’ rote learning skills were not what was being assessed by PISA, rather ‘it was their ability and capacity to solve problems through the use of reason’.

The SGEN-CFDT referred to the Minister’s plan as ‘a series of measures that have existed for years’. Referring to elements of the Science Plan that affect primary education, it stated that ‘daily mental arithmetic was already in the bill of 2 March, 2007, on the maths curriculum’.

SGEN-CFCT went on to state that ‘Luc Chatel is proposing “academic” research that already exists, at the same time that he is closing the National Institute for Educational Research, thereby shutting down a key research body’.

The French teaching unions went on to position the Science Plan in the context of massive funding cuts bring imposed on teaching posts and reductions in the government’s budget allocation for state education in recent years. The unions condemned the negative effect that such an educational policy will have on teacher training.

SNES-FSU stated that: ‘No one is questioning the need for all students to have solid scientific grounding or the Minister’s goal of improving teacher training’ but it will only be feasible if he ‘did not insist on implementing teacher training reforms that jeopardise initial training because of budget cuts’.

UNSA-Education argued that the idea of rolling out ‘pilots of integrated teaching programmes for science and technology is a cross-cutting approach that could work’, but questioned whether it was possible, given that there was no longer the possibility of making class sizes smaller and budget restrictions prevented this from happening in the future. It also stated that it was necessary to ‘rebuild genuine teacher training’ which it believes was adversely affected by the government’s ‘masterisation’ reforms.

The SGEN-CFDT also lamented the Minister’s proposal to ‘increase the number of visits by school inspectors rather than allowing student teachers and teachers the time to learn’, while at the same time as cutting teacher training opportunities.

The One school, One future network, which includes FSU, UNSA-Education and SGEN-CFDT, issued a joint call for staff and the general public to participate in a national day of action on Saturday 19 March to show their support for state education and the on-going commitment to helping young people to succeed.

EI supports the actions of its members and calls for the French educational authorities to ensure that initial and continuing teacher training are not jeopardised by national budget cuts.