Educational inequalities do not only widen in primary school

Posted Sep 6, 2023, 6:48 PM

At a time when the Minister of National Education, Gabriel Attal, speaks of “knowledge shock” and “going all out” on fundamental knowledge “at all” school levels, a study by France Strategy, an organization attached to Matignon, shows that educational inequalities are built throughout the course of students, and not just in primary school.

In the fabric of inequalities, several factors come into play – gender, migratory background and social origin. But it is this last element that weighs the most.

At nursery and after

France Strategy recalls the results of the Pisa study: according to the tests carried out on 15-year-old pupils, 107 points separate a pupil of privileged origin and another of disadvantaged origin in France. On average in OECD countries, the gap is only 88 points.

Inequalities start before school. “Early childhood lays the foundations for these inequalities in the course,” explains Peggy Furic, one of the authors of the note. The benefits of crèches, in terms of development, are very positive and they are all the greater if the children come from a disadvantaged family. However, it is the latter who have the least access to it. »

In elementary school too, new gaps will widen: half of the gaps observed in CM2 were already observable in CP, according to the note, which thus underlines that “the other half of the gaps therefore result from disparities that have appeared between CP and CM2”.

The study does not say anything, however, about the effects of duplication in early grades or of schooling at the age of three in kindergarten. The pupils arrive at the college “variously armed”, continue their authors and “the single college is less so than it seems”, since the pupils of disadvantaged origin are overrepresented in the relay cles, in the Segpa – which welcome the children in great difficulty – or in CAP.

“A cumulative mechanism”

These inequalities widen in high school with the choice of specialties that lead to “continuation of studies with differentiated returns on the labor market”, according to France Strategy. Higher education “prolongs and crystallizes the inequalities in career paths built by a mechanism of accumulation”. At an equivalent school level, students from disadvantaged backgrounds will go less towards higher education, notes the study.

“Inequalities are therefore built up throughout the course and they accumulate at each stage and at the moments of the orientation which are really points of bifurcation”, insists Gilles de Margerie, general commissioner of France Strategy: “There are things at every step. “There is an important cumulative mechanism that starts very early and leads to putting the package on the primary or to prioritizing the early stages of schooling, explains Johanna Barasz, one of the co-authors. But it is important not to systematically postpone the cause of inequalities to the previous stage, there is a real reflection to be carried out on the articulation between the priority at the primary level – which must continue to be fed – and the other stages of education, to reduce inequalities. »

This reduction “goes beyond the teaching of only establishments in priority education”, she concludes. A significant fact, while the reform of the priority education card has continued to be postponed in recent years.

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