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Macron and the “inevitable” privatization of the School

For Emmanuel Macron, the evolution of the School is obviously a priority. After his visit to Marseille on June 2, he returned to the school question in an interview published by the regional press on June 3. Presented as a “cultural revolution” for the School with the help of a “national reorganization”, the Macronian reform should be of greater magnitude than it seemed. With the re-election of E Macron, unless there is a surprise in the legislative elections, France will join the movement that is leading Western countries to an accelerated privatization of education systems.

Freedom, flexibility

Freedom, flexibility: E Macron repeated these words about the School on June 2 in Marseille. “When I say we invert the pyramid… that’s the cultural revolution. The word was uttered at the start of our round table, it’s a cultural revolution”, he repeated on June 2. He also speaks of “national reorganization”. Words that could have made his minister react. But everyone was able to see on June 2 that the real minister lives in the Elysée…

What do we know about this cultural revolution? E Macron wants to “generalize” the Marseille experiment. He defines it that way. First of all, more freedom: “teachers who are freer… heads of establishments who are freer to propose, to innovate… The possibility for directors of establishments (sic) to s ensure that we share a project that he carries and where there is also more freedom that we will try to give to teachers”.

The new pact

This project is linked to the “new pact” for teachers for which it sets the deadline for the start of the 2023 school year. Alongside an (undefined) increase for all teachers, E Macron speaks of a revaluation in connection with the acceptance of the new pact. He himself brings this pact closer to the Marseille experiment. In Marseille, the €40,000 allocated to experimental schools includes part of the remuneration of staff in the form of overtime to monitor the project and discharges from management. This is linked to the school’s pedagogical autonomy and to the new convention which links it to experimentation.

It is clearly this system which constitutes for E Macron the “cultural revolution” announced. Where there is today a national education with national rules, the president wishes to multiply the contracts binding each school to the State and to its local environment.

This development goes far beyond the question of the “new pact”. As part of this “pact”, the new tenured teachers and the teachers who will return there will accept the separation between the competition and obtaining a position. As for current private teachers, they will have to find an establishment or a school and submit to the authority of the head of the establishment. It is in this connection that E Macron speaks of “flexibility”, a principle presented as a virtue. To tell the truth, they will have to submit to it more than in the private sector. Because in the private sector, the headteacher already has a lot to do with the management of his establishment. They will also accept the end of identical remuneration. Each local contract could have its constraints and its remuneration even if national benchmarks exist.

General contracting and end of priority education

But the reform could be even greater. If we follow the words of E Macron, we would move from national management of schools and establishments to local management, each school or establishment being under contract. It is the generalization of local contracts (CLA) that is being prepared. That is to say the end of priority education.

We understand that the formula of the “cultural revolution” is not usurped. For a national and centralized education system like the French system, what E Macron proposes is a real break.

The inevitable privatization

But that’s no surprise. Emmanuel Macron’s program does not fall from the sky. In the French space it is the one that JM Blanquer presented in “The school of life” then in “The school of tomorrow”. If we situate them in the world discourse on school, we will recognize the principles of new public management.

This brings me to the “inevitable” privatization. In 2020, the International Review of Education of Sèvres devoted an issue to the privatization of education (n°82), coordinated by X Pons and T Chevallier. For the directors of this issue, the privatization of the School is already well advanced in Western countries. We can cite the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, England (where the current government wants to put an end to what remains of public schools), Finland, Australia and Chile.

In France, since 2017, the government has allowed the Institut Montaigne and its pedagogical branch The choice of the School to multiply initiatives with the support of the ministry. Through them it is indeed another vision of a teacher’s career that has become commonplace. And now the government has marvelously broken the recruitment competitions and the attractiveness of the teaching profession, giving new impetus to the proliferation of contract workers.

What brakes?

The Revue de Sèvres highlighted two obstacles to this “inevitable” privatization. First the poor school results. The new system tries to camouflage with batteries of tests. But they are there. In the general competition between schools, the gaps are widening. Everywhere the application of the new rules leads to a recruitment crisis and the generalization of the auxiliary service. And the losers are the students from working-class backgrounds. In England, private schools do not hesitate to close where schools are not profitable, leaving neighborhood children on the streets. In Sweden, where the new management has gone furthest, the results have been so disastrous that even the OECD has recommended an adjustment of the system.

The other obstacle to this “cultural revolution” will soon be measured. Xavier Pons quoted him in the Revue de Sèvres. “The French are for the free choice of school… But once faced with the choice, they ask themselves questions”. Because privatization threatens the commons, encourages the fragmentation of society, peddles values ​​that oppose collective values. The “new pact” is a “cultural revolution” insofar as it attacks the basics of public schooling. They can still oppose this project to defend their school in June 2022.

Francois Jarraud

E Macron in Marseille

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The school of life

The school of tomorrow

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