looking back on almost two hundred years of ideal education system


“There are as many ways to talk about school as there are French people”, warns Roschdy Zem in the commentary. On such a subject, as exciting as it is passionate, it is comforting to recognize the voice of the actor with a remarkable career: the first child born in France in a family of five, in Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine), of a Moroccan father who lives in the slums of Nanterre, and a mother who determines the academic success of her four sons and her daughter; but also a schoolboy to whom the high school of Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis) said that“There was no room for it” [lui] »despite his correct numbers, he trusted the World, January 15, 2016: “It was the violence of that time. »

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Director Stéphane Corréa chose 1833 as the starting point, the year in which every French municipality had to open a primary school for the first time. In question, an inglorious state of affairs: “Nowhere else in Europe do children work so young”ie 4 years in the field and 8 years in the workshops.

The commentary urges some key figures, such as Louise Michel or Jules Ferry

Like a good lesson, this history of nearly two hundred years of French school combines relaxation, with anecdotes from personalities or teachers, and instruction, through storytelling and archives. With the fight against inequalities as the common thread: in 1910, 1% of French pupils in secondary schools (paying) had a baccalaureate degree; in 2021 the pass rate is 93.7% and the school is a common experience.

The commentary highlights some key figures. Like the teacher Louise Michel (1830-1905), who joined the Paris Commune in 1871 – it was the Communards who invented the word “laïcité”; Jules Ferry (1832-1893), of course, but also Ferdinand Buisson (1841-1932), follower of a cheerful school; later René Haby (1919-2003), who in 1975 carried out the reform of the colleges desired by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1926-2020) – even if this meant avoiding the resulting demonstrations; François Mitterrand (1916-1996), who launched ZEPs (priority education zones), but had to give up the abolition of free schools, given the scale of the demonstrations (one million people in Paris) in 1984.

Communicative Passion

Numerous, the forty-five staff best embody the diversity of each person’s relationship with school, from “wonderful memories” from the physicist Etienne Klein to the hell lived by the actor Franck Gastambide, archetype of the “dunk” (the one who, like the crab, does not walk straight). Between the two, Daniel Pennac, Nagui, Edwy Plenel, or even Martin Fourcade, Olympic multi-medal winner in biathlon, who discovered skiing thanks to the green classes and at the same time achieved 2 out of 20 in the sport at the baccalaureate !

We would forget certain more delicate themes, such as respect for teachers or secularism.

The feelings are different. Actress Ariane Ascaride was told: “You, where you come from, you cannot understand” ; conversely, the school allowed Samuel Joshua, a college professor, to get out of his condition: “In math, I wasn’t the poor kid: I was at the top of the class. »

All teachers show passion for their subject, to the point that it becomes communicative and we forget certain more delicate issues, such as respect for teaching staff or secularism. Two years after the death of Samuel Paty, on October 16, 2020, a history and geography professor was murdered for displaying a caricature of Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo for his students, the latest studies show an increase in attacks on secularism in schools.

Stories of a Nation: The School, documentary by Stéphane Corréa (Fr., 2022, 2 x 60 min). Followed by a debate presented by Julian Bugier as part of a special evening. Available on rerun on France.tv.

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