“We must overcome the dogma of the supposedly harmful nature of knowledge acquired early”

Lhe decline in the position of French schools in international rankings and our almost structural incapacity to reduce initial inequalities can lead to a form of renunciation. Should we give in to fatalism and turn away from any ambition for our education system?

Faced with the ambient catastrophism, the results of evaluation of the international research program in academic reading (Pirls – Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) 2021 reveal an encouraging progression in the skills of French students on which we can build. They are notably the consequence of the importance given to primary school, from Luc Ferry to Jean-Michel Blanquer via Vincent Peillon. At the same time, the examples provided by numerous neighboring countries, such as Germany, Portugal or Estonia, and distant ones, such as Canada or South Korea, demonstrate that, when structuring reforms are carried out, a system school can progress quickly. It is a challenge launched to our Republic to raise our country to the rank of the most ambitious in terms of educational equity.

It is now well established by research that inequalities mainly result from differences in language stimulation within families. Thus, from the age of 4, a student from a disadvantaged background has heard millions of fewer words than their more advantaged peer, who consequently has a vocabulary three times richer.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The reasons that explain the fragility of French students in reading

Based on this observation, we must act at the root to resolve the initial inequalities and we must overcome the dogma of the supposedly harmful nature of knowledge acquired early. Continuing to rebuild our primary school is the key to success.

Continue the policy of duplication

Against so-called stigmatization, the overhaul of primary schools should be based on a simple principle: children from disadvantaged backgrounds must receive more support and must work harder, compared to their peers in a more advantaged environment.

To this end, continuing the policy of doubling and capping cl sizes appears appropriate. The demographic change at work offers us the opportunity to do this at almost constant cost. And at the same time, the reform of kindergarten programs should make it possible to place increased importance on mastering the fundamentals. It is not a question of transforming the nursery school into a small elementary school. It is simply a matter of reinforcing the importance given to cognitive developments and language stimulation while retaining the playful aspect as a cornerstone of learning development.

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