French less educated than other Europeans

A new study showed French people are less educated than the European average, which seems to be a blow to the country’s oft criticized education system. However, some good news is concealed in the findings.

French less educated than other Europeans
French people are less educated than the European average. Photo: Rune Mathison/Flickr

Fewer French adults have finished high school on average than their neighbors in the European Union, but this number somewhat obscures an exploding number of graduates in France over the past three decades.

Though the study from France’s national statistics agency, Insee, showed about 72.5 percent of French adults have completed high school, compared to 74.2 percent in the rest of Europe, it actually used to be worse.

A whopping 56 percent of people who are currently over the age of 65 left high school without getting a diploma.

The Insee figures showed a big change:  about 11.6 percent of 18-24 year olds had quit school without getting a diploma and were not enrolled in any other classes.

"This strong growth is mainly due to an increase in the number of general baccalauréats and significant growth in the vocational baccalauréats ", created in the mid-80s, according to INSEE.

When broken down, the statistics show 13.4 percent of young men in 2012 left middle school before finishing, while the number was 9.8 percent for girls.

In France, the number of graduates has boomed over the past 35 years as more than three-quarters of the French, 76.7, percent have achieved some type of baccalauréat degree. It is three times more than the 25.9 percent in 1980.

These results show improvement over previous decades, but the agency responsible for France’s schools, Education Nationale, has nonetheless been assailed by charges in recent years of dysfunction and inequality.

An agency spokeswoman did not immediately provide comment on the Insee study's results

A 2013 poll carried out for RTL radio found that 58 percent of French people were unhappy with the quality of the education they received.

With the chief cause being the standard of teaching. Some 57 percent of respondents felt that teachers in France are “poorly trained.”

“From the point of view of the French people, teachers today are not trained well to deal with events like conflicts between pupils, or even conflicts between pupils and teachers, over subjects such as religion,” pollster Yves-Marie Cann told RTL.

Teachers are also unhappy with the system, with some willing to take their own lives in protest.

A 55-year-old teacher of electronics at the Lycée Artaud in the southern city of Marseille killed himself, just two days before the beginning of the new school year in France.

“Basically, I cannot accept in good conscience what the [teaching] profession, at least in my speciality, has become,” he said in a suicide note.

“I could have set myself on fire in the middle of the schoolyard, the day the pupils came back to school,” he wrote, referring to a shocking incident in 2011 when a maths teacher in the southern city of Beziers died after self-immolating in front of her students. "That would have had a certain style, but I don’t have the virtue for that."

Among these troubling signs there's also an indication in the Insee study that France is sliding back to a lower level of early education.

Schooling among two-year-old children has been falling for the past decade. One in three toddlers was signed up for some kind of formal schooling in the 2000s, against 11.6 percent in 2011.

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What you need to know about France’s rising population

By the year 2050 France will be home to millions more people, but certain areas of the country will see population grow more than others. Here's a look at the key points.

What you need to know about France’s rising population
Photo: AFP

On January 1st 2017, France had a population of 66.9 million, an all-time high. 

New data by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) says France’s population is predicted to increase to 74 million by 2050. 

We've picked out some key points from the INSEE study to give an idea of what France's growing population will look like in the future.

Regional differences

INSEE predicts the population will rise across France, but growth won't be even. The biggest rises in population will be in the Pays de la Loire region of western France (see chart below, courtesy of Ouest France) and the central region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

The Grand Est region of eastern France, which includes the old regions of Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes will see the smallest increase in population over the coming years – only 0.7 percent according to INSEE, followed by Normandy in the north, where growth will be only slightly higher.

The main reasons for the lack of growth in the Grand Est region according to INSEE is that there will be more deaths, especially in the years 2040 to 2050, less immigration to the region, there are fewer women meaning the birth rate will be lower and the area lacks attractiveness.

The greater Paris region of Ile-de-France will remain the country's most populated region and will be home to 13.2 million inhabitants by 2050 – up from 12 million in 2013. Auvergne-Rhône -Alpes will be the second most populated region with 9.5 million inhabitants in 2050 – up from 7.8 million.

An aging population

By 2050, France will have 20 million people aged 65-years-old or more. That's 8.6 million more than in 2013.

Interestingly for most regions in France deaths will outnumber births by 2050.

That's because baby boomers born between 1945 and 1975 will have reached old age. Among the elderly population the number of people aged over 75 will see a particularly large rise, numbering 12.9 million by 2050 – some 16.4% of the population.

Again the aging of the population won't be the same across all regions. INSEE predicts the trend will be more marked in the regions of Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Grand-Est and Normandie.


Why France might just be the best country in the world to grow old in

The working population

But 2050 France will see a drop of 588,000 people in the size of its working population, basically those aged of 20 to 64.

So by 2050 the country's working population would only represent half of the country's overall population.

Again the reduction in the working population will be greater in the Grand Est region of eastern France and Normandy in the north.

Youth population remains stable

Between now and 2050, the number of people under-20 in France is expected to remain stable.

In 2050, France will have only 265,000 more young people than in 2013. Those under 20 would then represent 22.3 percent of the population, that's 2.3 percentage points less than in 2013,” says INSEE. This decrease would concern all regions.

How do we explain the trend?

There are numerous reasons for the projected rise in France's population including immigration – net migration is currently 70,000 a year.

And people in France are living longer than ever before. By 2050 average life-expectancy for women will be 90.3 in France compared to 85 in 2013, while for men it will be 86.8 years compared to 78.7 in 2013.

But also France has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe.

Earlier this year The Local reported that in 2015, France had the highest birth rate in Europe at 1.96 children per woman, although this was down from the symbolic rate of 2 children per mother in 2014.

by Jessie Williams