Stark inequality causes France to fall again in global education rankings

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
Stark inequality causes France to fall again in global education rankings
Photo: AFP

A new education ranking has shown how France's gaping inequality between its privileged and disadvantaged pupils is dragging down the country's education system.


France has dropped two places to finish 27th out of 72 in the new Pisa education rankings, which were released on Tuesday. 
France's pupils scored an average of 495 points, compared with the average among OECD countries of 493.
The results from the study, which measured skills among high school students, landed France in the same block as the US, Austria, Sweden, and Spain. 
And while France scored the exact same score as it did for the last report in 2013, it has sunk a total of five spots since the report six years ago. 
What really set France apart were the results based on the social origins of the teenage pupils, with the study noting a general trend in all countries when comparing results for pupils with and without "disadvantaged backgrounds".
"The difference between these two groups is particularly noticeable in France, where the relationship between performance and socio-economic background of the students is one of the strongest among the countries that participated," the study said. 
"In other words, the more they come from disadvantaged areas, the less likely they will succeed in the Pisa evaluation."
The study noted that France saw a 20 percent variation in science performance due to students' socio-economic status, compared to a 12.9 percent average across the OECD. Only two other countries in Europe had a higher variation. 
Children with immigrant parents scored on average 87 points lower in sciences than their peers, compared to a 53-point difference in other OECD countries, reported L'Express newspaper
Immigrant pupils of the second generation scored 50 points lower than their peers, compared to a 31 point gap in the OECD. 
In general, the results of the French pupils across the different subjects didn't change much, with the 15-year-olds recording a 2-point increase in reading scores and a four-point drop for maths over three years.
Overall, France had 18.4 percent of students ranked as "top performers" in at least one subject, and 14.8 percent of students deemed "low achievers" in maths, reading, and science. 
The study found Singapore came top of the table for its teaching of science, reading and mathematics. Its students scored an average of 556 points, far above the 493 average for OECD pupils. 
Researchers noted that Singapore had taken the torch over from Finland, which had long topped education studies. 
"Everyone used to go to Finland. Now you have to go to Singapore to see what they are doing," OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos told reporters ahead of the report's launch.
The five top-performing countries in the PISA tests were Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Taiwan and Finland.
France's education system has suffered from some poor report cards in the last few weeks.
Timss research group found French 10-year-old pupils to be at the bottom of the class in Europe when it comes to maths, and second last to Cyprus in science. 
A separate study last month found the French to be the worst English speakers in the EU.  


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