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France: divisive report on reforming the upper secondary vocational path

In February 2018, at the request of Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education, MP Céline Calvez and starred chef Régis Marcon produced a report on the upper secondary vocational path (BAC-pro). The report presents key facts and figures on the vocational stream and proposals to reform it to increase its attractiveness and responsiveness to challenges in society and the economy.

First reactions reflect diverging opinions

While some trade unions believe that the report recommendations are moving in the right direction, other players considers them a direct threat to the future of the vocational path in public schools. Almost all regret the confirmation that the three upper secondary pathways (general, technological and vocational) will remain separate.

Another observation is the (continued) competition between the apprenticeship system and school-based VET. The report argues that the secondary school path should be used to select students according to their learning needs and profiles, creating individualised pathways; this would mean that the best profiles for employers would be redirected into apprenticeships, with students experiencing social and educational difficulties going into school-based VET programmes.

Notable proposals include:

  • tailored, progressive and secured pathways, with first-year high school students put in classes organised into groups of occupations (familles de métiers) with the possibility to choose an occupation at the end of the school year;
  • a two-fold objective allowing direct entry into the labour market and the possibility to move on to further studies;
  • acquisition of transversal skills through innovative training tools and working methods such as the project-based approach;
  • greater flexibility for students to combine learning pathways, mixing student and apprentice status;
  • expanding the campuses of professions and qualifications initiative (Campus des métiers et des qualifications) and supporting networking between training providers and institutions. The campuses bring together in a single place/network VET institutions (secondary and higher education institutions, apprenticeship training centres, training bodies, including engineering schools, research centres and companies) involved in a particular economic sector.
  • redesigning the initial and continuous training system of teaching/training staff working in upper secondary VET schools (lycées professionnels), apprenticeship training centres (Centres de formation d’apprentis, CFA) and other training providers to support their professionalisation with immersions in companies.

Read more:

Rapport sur la voie professionnelle scolaire – viser l’ excellence, Février 2018
La voie professionnelle scolaire : viser l'excellence