Why are so many French youngsters dropping out of school?

Why are so many French youngsters dropping out of school?
Photo: AFP
Every year in France 100,000 young people leave the school system with no qualifications, a new study has revealed. But why is this happening?
The study carried out by France's national council responsible for assessing the school system (CNESCO) showed that more than 10 percent of school pupils are leaving school without passing any exams. 
That means that they don't have their all-important baccalaureate qualification nor the French professional aptitude diploma called the CAP. 
This figure might sound high but apparently it isn't that exceptional when compared to other European countries, university researcher Pierre-Yves Bernard, who specialises in the school dropout rate, told The Local. 
But while there are trends seen across the continent in terms of which students are most likely to drop out: those coming from poor areas or a single parent family, to name a couple, there are some factors that particularly affect France.
France to crack down on school exam cheats
A Pisa study carried out in 2016 showed that France's gaping inequality between its privileged and disadvantaged pupils is dragging down the country's education system.
This has led to a trend of “absenteeism” which Bernard says “is concentrated in certain areas”. 
President of CNESCO Nathalie Mons said she believes that “we must be very vigilant about the phenomena of heavy absenteeism.”
“There are institutions where absenteeism is very high. We enter a vicious circle where students are more likely to be absent when they see others doing the same,” she added.
Another reason behind France's dropout rate is that French pupils don't feel a strong sense of belonging to their schools compared to pupils elsewhere, says Bernard. 
In France, just 40 percent of students feel like they belong to their school, according to a Pisa study, whereas the average level seen in developed countries is 73 percent. 
One of the reasons Bernard believes this to be the case is due to France's academically rigorous curriculum which can leave some pupils feeling inadequate. 
France's school system has long been accused of being elitist, in that it favours the bright pupils but leaves the rest struggling behind.
French sociologist Professor and education expert Marie Duru-Bellat, a lecturer at Sciences-Po university in Paris told The Local: “The French school system works for the best. There is a lot of grading in the system and pupils are regularly compared and ranked. Imagine how it must feel if you are bottom of the class all the time.
“Foreign observers frequently note that the French system is not very kind.”
She previously told The Local: “The problem in France for a long time has been that the curriculum is elitist. This importance on elitism is deep-rooted in the French mind-set and in our history and it is very difficult to change.
“We always think we have the best system because we think our curriculum is the most demanding. That is the broad view and it should be challenged.”
Duru-Bellat also pointed to the lack of teacher training in France. Teachers are often chosen by schools on the knowledge of their subject rather than whether they can actually teach it.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy scrapped teacher training colleges in France and although they were brought back under his successor François Hollande it i too early to know if they have had any positive impact.
“Teachers are just not trained to teach here,” said Duru-Bellet. “It's difficult to change the attitude. In France a maths teacher will say he is a mathematician rather than a teacher.”
She also said one major problem was pupils being orientated towards careers they are not suited to. 
“Students re forced to chose a profession early and often they chjose one they end up not liking and drop out.” 
Bernard also points to the fact that French students are limited in their choices when it comes to selecting subjects for their future career which can leave them feeling out of place and more likely to leave. 
Why schools are to blame for the French being so glum
Photo: AFP