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Baccalaureate Examination Too Expensive

Thursday 04 July 2013

The Baccalaureate examination is too expensive and complicated, according to a study carried out by the association of French school principals.

The total annual cost of this sacrosanct examination, used as the entrance qualification to university, is estimated by the association to be €1.5 billion (excluding the costs of the Lycée Professionnel exams, not considered in the study).

That is around 20 times the figure generally used by the government.

The teachers consider that this lower figure is only the direct cost of the examination, which fails to take into account the 'hidden costs' of the loss of three weeks teaching in the final school term, when teachers and schools are mobilised for organisation of the examination.

Even though the school term officially ends on 4th July, in practice, classes for all students at Lycee (not just final year students) cease mid-June, with teachers, staff and other resources otherwise tied up with the 'bac'.

The amputation of three weeks classes at the end of the year is equivalent to 8% of the total number of 36 weeks in the annual Lycee school calendar. This means that over the three year study periodstudents lose the best part of a school term. "We would do much more for equality if instead of shutting the school gates in mid-June for the examinations, we kept our students on until the end of the month", said the association.

With the introduction this year of oral language examinations as early as February the suppression of teaching classes now begins four months before the summer examinations.

It questioned the practical value of the baccalaureate examination, as over 80% of those who took the exam passed it, making no difference to their entrance to university, which for most had already been determined by prior admission procedures during their final year.

So for the association, the cost amounted to €1.5 billion for failing around 55,000 students who did not pass the examination, of the 650,000 who each year sit it.

The cost of the examination has grown substantially over the past 30 years, not only because of the growing number of students who now take it (around 65% who attend Lycee), but the growth in the number of tests, the optional subjects that are available, as well as the increase in mandatory subjects, such as languages.

Philippe Tournier, the secretary general of SNPDEN (Syndicat National des Personnels de Direction de l’Education Nationale) stated that the baccalaureate was a « une machine folle » and he called for a « choc de simplification » to the qualification process, with fewer subjects, fewer tests, and more continuous testing.

In 2012, an interdepartmental study carried out by the government came to broadly the same conclusion; the cost of the examination was excessive (although their figure was €100 million not the €1.5 billion of the principals) and that the examination should be restricted to the main subjects, with other subjects tested by continuous assessment.

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