Feb 4, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

France’s two-hundred-year-old week-long high school exit exam will undergo a major overhaul this year.

While the philosophical essay will remain, with questions like, “Can natural desires exist?” and “Does language betray thought?”

During President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, he pledged to overhaul the exam, explaining that it did not prepare today’s teenagers for university life or the modern job market.

The new proposal will cut the number of Baccalaureate exams in half—to five, including a new 30-minute verbal exam. It would also eliminate the three subject choices—science, literature, or social science.

In the new exam, students will choose two specific major subjects before their final year, in addition to two minor subjects n the standard curriculum. 

The new grade for the exam will incorporate grades earned over the final two years of school—and not be based solely on final exam results.

If the reforms pass, students’ class schedules will change to reflect two semesters rather than three trimesters. The tests will also be spread over many months, as opposed to one week.

France’s hope? By introducing specializations at a younger age, students will be able to prepare better for university life.

In an article in The Straits Times, Pierre Mathiot, former president of the Lille branch of the Sciences Po university and an architect of the overhaul said, I’m not saying there should be fewer baccalaureates, but that there should be ‘ better’ graduates… and that the average Bac grade should better reflect a student’s actual level.”

Critics of the overhaul say that the new model forces students to choose a career path at a younger age, which isn’t fair. They also question the new policy’s equality, citing that children from wealthier families will be better equipped to navigate choices than their poorer counterparts.

In the Straits Times, Liberation editorial writer Laurent Joffrin said, “Those who have more, know more.”

Stay tuned for further updates.

Learn more about studying in France    

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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