28 SES 08, Comprehensive School and Inequality in France and Italy
The project of comprehensive school in the 1960’s and 70’s implied a somewhat unification of the offer in education. The unselective junior high schools in France applied this principle in such a systematized way that it certainly is at the origin of a lot of the difficulties it is faced to. France is hit, since the end of the 20th century, by a wave which presents the diversification of the offer in education as the condition of efficiency in teaching and as a new form of democratization (Baluteau 2013). The implementation of this positioning is based on the autonomy of schools (Combaz 2007) and is part of a claim of families: choosing the school where their child will go.
Since 1963, the policy of division assign students in public high schools according to their home address. This measure had been taken in a context of planning. It was a question of dealing with the influx of baby-boom children and with the demand of middle-class families to access to do a long college course. At the beginning of the 1980’s, the first rankings of schools revealed to the public opinion that schools were not equal. Since then, families have been claiming the right to choose the school for their child. To answer this claim, both right and left governments established, in the middle of the 1980’s, relaxation experiments. For the socialists, it was about the will to elaborate a compromise around the idea of the users’ rights. During two decades, these relaxations would be pinpointed and under strict control. For example, in September 2006, only 4% of the students had entered junior secondary school with a dispensation (Grenet & Fack 2011).
In 2007, a rightist minister, Xavier Darcos, generalised them, aiming at an abolition by 2010. Because it fit into a neoliberal perspective, the announcement aroused an important polemic. The Anglo-Saxon examples gave way to the perspective of the state stepping back when confronted to the market (Ball 2008, Tomlinson 2009, Walford 2008) which worried both the left wing and the heirs of Gaullism. Other works show this fear was not vain, mainly in the most fragile schools of educational priority areas (Merle 2011). Nationally speaking, that announcement only had a limited effect. Indeed, the rate of dispensation demands while entering in junior high school was around 6% in September 2006 and increased of a few points during the following years but never got past 11.2% (Fack & Grenet 2011, Gauthier & Pajot 2013). Concerning the acceptance rate, it has increased significantly during the first two years and has gained a little more than 10 points to; finally, get near the acceptance rate of the beginning of the school year preceding the 2007 measure, that is to say 67%.
The aim of this contribution is to follow this ten-year evolution of the diversification in the offer of education, given the increasing autonomy allowed to schools and the families’ will to choose the school for their child, by analysing the lack of harmony between the state policies and the actors’ reasoning. The latter refer to the anthropology of the actors’ skills constituted by Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot in On Justification (2006). They both put in light a diversification in the principles of justice likely to govern education: equality, efficiency, community integration, respect of differences, well-being of children, etc. The interviews tried to deal with the way the actors made choices in this multiple-justification universe, how they developed compromises, etc. The aim was to understand the reasoning of families but also to follow the evolution of intermediate executive staff of Education Nationale.
BALL S. J. 2008 The education debate, Bristol, The Policy Press BALUTEAU F. 2013 Enseignements au collège et ségrégation sociale, Louvain-La-Neuve, L’Harmattan BOLTANSKI L. & THÉVENOT L. 2006 On justification. Economies of Worth, Princeton & Oxford, Princeton University Press COMBAZ G. 2007 Autonomie des établissements et inégalités scolaires, Paris, Fabert FACK G. & GRENET J. 2011 Rapport d’évaluation de l’assouplissement de la carte scolaire Paris, Cepremap GAUTHIER R.-F. & PAJOT B. 2013 Conséquences des mesures d’assouplissement de la carte scolaire après 2007, Paris, La documentation française KAUFMANN J.-C. 1996 L’entretien compréhensif, Paris, Nathan MERLE P. 2011 “La carte scolaire et son assouplissement. Politique de mixité sociale ou de ghettoïsation des établissements ?”, Sociologie, n2, p37-50 TOMLINSON S. 2009 Éducation et justice sociale dans une société de l’après État providence, in Derouet J.-L. & M.-C. Derouet-Besson (eds) Repenser la justice dans le domaine de l’éducation et de la formation, Bern, Peter Lang, p171-185 WALFORD G. 2008 School choice in England : globalization, policy borrowing or policy corruption ?, in Forsey M., Davies S. & Walford G. (eds) The globalization of school choice, Oxford, Symposium books, p95-110
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