High School: Why Are Your Teachers Worried About Maths and Science?

Math and SVT teachers are calling for a re-examination of the place given to their disciplines in high school. They are concerned about the decline in the number of students studying science, while tomorrow’s society will face many scientific and technological challenges. Negotiations are underway with the Ministry of National Education.

Emmanuel Macron just made this campaign promise. “I want to return the basics, in particular mathematics, to the common core at the undergraduate level, where all specialties are combined,” said the President of the Republic, a candidate for his own re-election, on Monday, March 7, for his entry into the electoral campaign. campaign.

With this proposal (which is shared by other candidates) he responds to the concerns expressed over the years by mathematics teachers: after school reform (wanted by Emmanuel Macron himself), basic math teaching is no longer guaranteed for all students. More recently, representatives from other disciplines, including SVT, have also waved the flag demanding that the school pay more attention to their teaching.

But why are your teachers concerned about the level of math and science in high school? The student explains to you that he is stuck.

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Fewer and fewer students are doing math in high school

The first point is the decrease in the number of students involved in mathematics. As the discipline was removed from the general core in high school, the proportion of students studying mathematics at the terminal dropped from 90% to 59% with the bachelor’s degree reform.

According to Alice Ernault, a math teacher in Prep Economics, this is because mathematics is taught today only at one level, the specialty level. Whereas “in many countries mathematics in high school is taught at three levels: the minimum common core, the utilitarian level for beginning economists or biologists, and the expert level for future physicists or mathematicians.

In the terminal, the options “Additional Math” and “Expert Math” allow you to recreate three levels, but they are only available to those who first studied the specialty. Moreover, there is still no minimum level.

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Competing Science Subjects

The same observation is made in other scientific disciplines. For example, the Biogee federation, which brings together SVT teachers, notes that 27% of high school students now have science courses compared to 53% before the undergraduate reform.

These statistics do not take into account science education, which, according to most teachers, is insufficient. “Two hours a week for physics, chemistry, SVT, computer science and mathematics is not hard,” jokes Alice Ernault.

Another reason cited by the teaching staff is the competition between specialties in the final year. : 17.2% of students choose mathematics and physical chemistry at the terminal school, which is considered more prestigious and promising, compared with 5.7% for mathematics and HBT.

The number of hours allocated to specialties is also indicated as responsible for this competition. “Twelve hours of specialty in the terminal is not enough, says Melanie Guene, professor of mathematics at the University of Paris Saclay and vice-president of the Mathematical Society of France. The S terminal was said to be too versatile, but it had 4:30 pm science!

It is for these reasons that there are calls to keep the three specialties in the terminal.

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“It is impossible to do science without mathematics, it is impossible to do economics without mathematics”

So the observation is clear: fewer and fewer students are studying math and science.. For Melanie Guene, this is especially problematic for students who will not be studying science: “Math is part of the basics. They are present at all levels of our society. To talk about a vaccine or statistics requires a minimum level of mathematics.”

This drop has the opposite effect on other materials. “Mathematics is necessary to deal with other disciplines, recalls Alice Ernault. Doing science without mathematics, doing economics without mathematics is impossible.”

The official statistics of Parcoursup 2021 show this well: pursuing a major in mathematics offers many more options for guiding students, regardless of the second specialty entered in the terminal. This is especially the case for a Staps license or economic and commercial prep classes.

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Sciences useful for solving problems of the future

Another argument put forward is the role of science in preparing the citizens of tomorrow. “Society faces challenges, almost all of which are scientific in nature: digital, technological and climate challenges. That’s where the jobs will be. We must present ourselves as best we can in this society of the future,” warns Melanie Guene.

Biogée SVT teachers are taking the same stance: if they are calling for more space for science in high school, it is in particular to prepare students for the climate crisis and the ecological transition.

This brings back to the discussion about the decline in the attractiveness of technology sectors, which is not related to the reform. “The common mathematical core here is robust,” Melanie Guene says. It is necessary to develop technological industries. They are important because there is a great demand for these professions of manufacturing, biotechnology, chemistry, digital.”

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Math generates inequalities

At the heart of these problems is also the question of social inequality. Who is doing math today? According to statistics from the Ministry of Public Education, boys and students from very privileged social strata predominate here.

Consultation on the Place of Mathematics in Secondary Schools Launched

The Ministry of National Education, long confident in its reform since Jean-Michel Blanquet himself, today admits thatwe need to rethink the place of math in high school. The consultations were launched a few weeks ago, and various options will be considered (returning mathematics to a common core, creating an intermediate level major, keeping three majors in the last year of study, etc.).

But given that there is a choice of specialties and the administrative organization of gymnasiums for the next academic year has begun, reform change for September 2022 is very unlikely. Students and families who are wondering what behavior to adopt in the face of the shortcomings pointed out by teachers will be answered to keep a math major in the first place or to review the various courses offered by a tech school.

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