“What should be the scientific base of a high school student leaving the education system?” The vice-president of the Mathematical Society of France, Melanie Guene, comments on the place of science in the reform of the secondary school. For her, as a participant in a forum signed by numerous mathematical and scientific associations (including Apmep, Udppc, Irem, Cfem and SMF), it is urgent to think about how to profoundly change the structure of general education higher education and rebalance the place of science in high school. The associations are rejecting in advance minor modifications that may be proposed in the coming days by a commission assembled by J. M. Blanker.
In a column published on March 15, your associations call for a rebalancing of the share of science and humanities in mainstream secondary schools. What do you mean ?
Currently, the general core of the final cycle of high school is from 15:30 to 16:00 with a “science education” of 2 hours. Everything else is the humanities. We are not asking for 7 or 8 hours of science. We would like us to think about the balance between these two poles. We don’t want to deal with this alone. Broad consultations are required with all partners in the common core to think about what should be the scientific base of a high school student leaving the education system.
We cannot immediately answer this question. But at present, the sciences are not given their due place in terms of their role in a society based on scientific and technical knowledge.
You are rejecting the idea of increasing the share of mathematics in “science education”. Why ?
It won’t solve the problem. If we increase science teaching by one hour to include 1 hour and 30 minutes of mathematics, we will start a war between disciplines. Physics, Chemistry and SVT faculty are currently providing 2 hours of science teaching. It should also be noted that this training focuses on the topics of physics, chemistry, CBT and digital technologies. It is focused on fundamental science. But mathematics is transversal and concerns, for example, SES. We don’t want to forget them.
You are defending a share of science. However, not all sciences can be found on your forum. For example, the teachers of SVT APBG did not sign it.
What blocked the signing of the APBG was our condemnation of the advisory committee set up by JM Blanker. In this committee we find people who created the reform of the secondary school, such as P. Matiot, J. K. Ringard, K. Torosyan or E. Geffrey. They are biased.
Is it possible to put mathematics in the general core when the ministry cannot even recruit teachers in sufficient numbers in relation to the positions offered?
It was possible two years ago. In two years, we lost 20% of math hours in high school. These positions easily disappeared by laying off contractors. If we restore the math in the common core, we will turn to these contractors again. After that, we will have to think about how to increase the attractiveness of the profession, especially in science.
Do you see a quick result, for example, for the next school year?
There is no entry for the next academic year. Any announcements that may be made on this subject will be campaigning. Indeed, we do not have a program for mathematics in a possible common trunk or for options. On the other hand, the hourly appropriations of the establishments have already been sent. If there were announcements to increase the share of mathematics, they would be marginal.
The problems we face are related to the structure of the reform. We must create a new doctrine, balance the disciplines of the common core. We may wonder, for example, about the Bachelor of Mathematics in the 1st grade, since there is a French Baccalaureate. All this is worth considering. It takes time.
The Forum draws attention to the decline in the number of girls receiving a mathematical education. How could it be increased?
This is a complex issue that concerns the presence of stereotypes in our society. In the old system, the S-flow was generic enough not to scare the girls away. With this reform, we have created a gap and created anxiety. This anxiety causes isolation and reinforces stereotypes and inequality in general.
Are all these questions about the share of mathematics and science in the general secondary school only about the future elite?
No, because mathematics is needed everywhere. This applies to disadvantaged areas where there are problems of excessive debt. All students need math. Increased access to science and mathematics promotes social mobility. It also opens the door for liberal arts students who also need math. And mathematics is also a way of thinking that is transmitted through their regular practice. Mathematics allows you to think abstractly about the problems of everyday life.
Interview with François Jarraud
Tribune of Mathematical and Scientific Societies