France’s Nicolas Sarkozy is worried that too many French children are left behind academically. The Economist reports:
A government-commissioned report reveals that two in five pupils leave primary school with â€œserious learning gapsâ€ in basic reading, writing and arithmetic. One in five finish secondary school with no qualification at all. Even the baccalaurÃ©at is under attack. This year’s pass rate of 83% is up from just over 60% in the early 1960s. â€œThe bac is worth absolutely nothing,â€ asserts Jean-Robert Pitte, president of the Sorbonne-University of Paris IV.
Compared to other developed countries, French students in the top half of the class are excellent; but the low performers are very low. Some 38 percent of French students repeat a grade by the age of 15.
Should students be tracked by ability? What can be done to improve teacher quality? Is there enough time for music, art and athletics? The issues sound very familiar.
Update: Via Gadfly, an incredible Sarkozy story: He came to national attention as a mayor in 1993 when he walked alone into a nursery school that had been taken over by a psychotic “human bomb” who was holding the children hostage. Sarkozy walked out 30 minutes later with the children.
Update 2: KitchenTableMath has more on the epidemic of reading problems in France.