Private Muslim school is France’s ‘best lycée’

France’s education ministry published its annual grades for secondary schools, or lycées, on Wednesday, revealing that private, religiously-affiliated schools were among the top performers and that Paris was home to many of the highest ranking institutions.

Private Muslim school is France's 'best lycée'
File photo: Cali4beach/Flickr

The results are in. Parents, students and teachers curious about how their school is performing can consult the Department of Education’s annual secondary school performance reports on Wednesday. The scores are based on each schools 2012 baccalaureate results.

Although the Ministry of Education does not produce any official league table of lycées, several French media sites, such as Le Parisien, have worked out the rankings by analysing the results.

In the table, the secondary schools are divided into two categories – lycées specializing in general education and technology, and lycées for vocational training.

Although France prides itself on its state education, this year's best-performing secondary school in the general education category according to Le Parisien's table was in fact the ‘Lycée Averroès’, a private Muslim school in the northern city of Lille.

The school was founded by the local Muslim community in 2003, almost ten years after the exclusion of 19 girls from a nearby lycée for wearing the Islamic veil. It now has around 150 registered pupils.

The lycée is also due to expand after recently taking steps to purchase a new 5000 square metre premises. It will soon be able to cater for 500 students.

Eric Dufour, a French literature teacher at the Lycée Averroès told The Local on Wednesday that the ministry's ranking marked a "wonderful success that the school and all the staff are proud of."

"There are some truly great schools in France, and for us to be placed ahead of institutions like the Lycée Henri-IV [in Paris], is a really lovely surprise," he added, ascribing the school's success to the support and help given to its students "beyond the school year, late into July, and during exam periods."

However l'Express, another media outlet ranked the Averroes school the country's fifth best lycée after using a different methodology in which it takes the demographics of the students into account to work out its own league table.

And for lycées specializing in vocational training, the highest performing schools were mostly private colleges, with Catholic institutions dominating the top rankings.

There was also good news for the French capital, whose secondary schools dominated the higher echelons of Le Parisien's rankings for 'general education and technology' lycées.

However Catherine Moisan from the Directorate of Evaluation, Forecasting and Performance (DEPP) warned against taking the scores at face value.

“We should not be satisfied just to look at the success of the baccalaureate to judge the effectiveness of a school,” she said. “We also need to look at how the school supports its students.

Maison also said it as important not to compare schools unfairly.

“If you have a high school in a disadvantaged suburb where students have diverse educational backgrounds, then just getting them to achieve above expected results shows the school is very effective,” she said.

Below are the top five secondary schools in France in the two main categories:

General category

1.       Lycée Averroès, Lille, Nord, Nord-Pas de Calais (private, Muslim)

2.       Lycée supérieure of Art and Architecture, Ecole Boule, Paris 12th arrondissement (public)

3.       Ecole active bilingue (French/English) Jeannine Manuel, Paris 15th arrondisement (private, secular)

4.       Lycée Louis Le Grand, Paris 5th arrondissement (public)

5.       Lycée Henri IV, Paris 5th arrondissement (public)

Vocational training category

1.       Institution Jeanne d’Arc, Commercy, Meuse, Lorraine (private, Catholic)

2.       Lycée professionnel saint-François d’Assisse, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, Yvelines, Ile-de-France (private, Catholic)

3.       Lycée Montbareil, Côtes-d’Armor, Brittany (private, secular)

4.       Lycée professionnel Joseph Roussel, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire (private, Catholic)

5.       Institution de la Salle, Metz, Moselle, Lorraine (private, Catholic)

Each school's score is calculated according to three main measurements.

First, the rate of students passing their baccalaureat (final year) exams; second, the rate of students graduating from their second-last year to sit the baccalaureat exams (at the same school) and finally, the percentage of graduates who go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree at a university.

Anyone wishing to browse the league tables for France, or region-by-region, should consult the following charts from French daily Le Parisien. For the general category, click here. For the vocational training category, click here.

Readers can also check the performance of a specific school, by following this link to France’s education ministry.

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Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.