“A great orator gives solemnity to undergraduate studies”

Why, in 2017, did Jean-Michel Blanquer urge you to think about this reform, which has long been considered delicate?

We’ve known each other for twenty years, we’ve been colleagues at Sciences-Po Lille, we’ve always…

Why, in 2017, did Jean-Michel Blanquer urge you to think about this reform, which has long been considered delicate?

We’ve known each other for twenty years, we were colleagues at Sciences-Po Lille, we always got along well, even if we didn’t agree on everything. Politically, I am on the left, which could be useful to him in his search for consensus. And I think I have a good relationship with the unions. Moreover, even if I work in a higher education institution and in the a priori elitist institution of Sciences-Po, he also knew that I have a foothold in high schools: I am very involved in the access democratization program at Sciences-Po, which involves regular subject work with universities and colleges. It seemed obvious to the minister that there could be no undergraduate reform without a more subtle reform of the secondary school. Which was done, with the rejection of sectors, the creation of specialties.

Why did the undergraduate education need to be reformed?

It is often remembered that his organization was complex and costly due to the large number of tests, disciplines, and this is true: 4 million copies to fix, almost 3,000 items to develop. But the real reasons are more fundamental. They affect the very meaning attached to this ritual, which no longer aroused support. Public opinion polls showed that the majority of teachers consider it necessary to reform it. We had a tank that largely inherited its spirit, its structure, in particular its writing, from the 1960s, while the secondary school has changed radically since then, it has become more numerous. In addition, a bachelor’s degree has ceased to be a key point in enrolling in studies. Today, the most decisive step is the wishes and especially the answers to the Parcoursup, which are communicated from the end of May, until the undergraduate. By the time high school students graduate in early July, 90% of them already have a place at the university.

Why did you advise the establishment of a grand orator?

I am a firm believer in the ritual dimension of the undergraduate degree, in its meaning for each candidate, for the family, and also for the Republican model: this oral test is a way to give him some of that solemnity back. And on a more pedagogical level, undergraduate education is too often viewed by high school teachers as the end of a cycle, the climax, when it should also mark the beginning, access to higher education. I sometimes say that real undergraduate success is measured a year later, depending on whether students excel academically or not. Excellent speaking provides an opportunity to develop a new skill, long-neglected mastery of speaking, that will serve students in higher education and their professional careers.

How do you assess the abolition of literary, scientific, etc.? ?

I am pleased to see high school students who can freely, according to their curiosity, mix mathematics, geohistory, philosophy. Many parents are still striving to recreate the old S stream by choosing three majors. It will take years for this reflex to disappear, this change in mindset will also depend on the expectations that schools formulate when hiring. prepas, universities that themselves should develop in their vision and focus less on the sciences. But half of the last years today is not in the combination of scientific disciplines: this is already a sacred evolution compared to the old hegemony of the S sector.

For this first release, the new version’s basket had to be redesigned due to the health crisis. What do you think about the relaxations adopted by the ministry?

I got the impression of a good balance between serenity and solemnity, between the need to appease the candidates and the need to preserve the ritual, in particular respecting the great oral presentation. I note with some irony that the unions are demanding 100% continuous monitoring: when we recommended introducing part of the continuous monitoring into this new reservoir, the protests were furious!

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