Was the 2024 secondary school certificate easier than in previous years?

Was the 2024 secondary school certificate easier than in previous years?
Was the 2024 secondary school certificate easier than in previous years?

«C’était hyper simple, comme de l’eau fraîche !», plaisantait Mathias, collégien de 15 ans au collège Victor Duruy dans le 7e arrondissement à propos des deux jours d’examen du brevet. Son amie Sophia complétait ses propos en déclarant que c’était «vraiment beaucoup plus facile que ce [qui est] usually done in college”. «No date to give” for the history test, “almost all formulas” were included in the mathematics subject. François, 15, educated at the Lamartine college in the 9th arrondissement even had the impression “to be at an exam for the sixth graders”This observation may not be unanimous among the 860,000 young people who have just passed their brevet, but many of the secondary school teachers we interviewed all observed a reduction in requirements and a simplification of subjects.

For literary subjects

Sylvie, a history and geography teacher, says that this year’s exam was not necessarily easier than those of previous years. “The topic was the last chapter of the geography curriculum, and not all teachers necessarily had time to cover it,” which may have disadvantaged some. In addition, the composite question that the middle school students had to work on came up in geography, “and we know that students respond less to it”explains the teacher. However, she says that the history subject was “boat”. “There are few questions, not much is expected and some very simple questions are worth a lot of points.”.

In French, too, the tests did not present “no particular difficulties for a student who has worked”believes Axelle. She adds that the subject ““did not require excessive knowledge, everything was in the text”. Only negative observation: the subject was a bit long for a middle school student who wanted to give complete answers.I know most of my students have botched it.” she said, not really surprised.In a more privileged school where the students are more studious, a colleague told me that they were not able to finish as they wanted. They did not have enough time to answer all the questions in detail.. She still notes that the questions asked were easier this year than previously.

On the science side

In mathematics, the tests have been very simple for two years, according to Minh and Sylvain, who both teach the subject.The expectations are not very high.”deplores Minh, who even believes that this year’s subject is even easier than last year’s. “I think some of my sixth formers could have done part of the subject,” he declares. “Even a biology teacher who was supervising the exam noticed it and pointed it out to me as I was leaving the exam.”.

Sylvain notes that many students left well ahead of the exam deadline. He explains that since 2017, the middle school diploma has changed form: “We are moving towards simpler and simpler things, especially in metropolitan France.”. After consulting the subjects of other middle school students taking their brevet across the world, he noticed that those offered in Asia are, for example, more complicated.It’s probably because they have a better level,” he explains.

Increasing rate of achievement

The figures speak for themselves: over the years, the brevet has been obtained by an increasing number of middle school students. When it was created in 1986, only half of the candidates obtained the diploma, a success rate that has since increased. This rate is now between 87% and 90%, as in 2022 with a pass rate of 87.5%, or in 2020 with 90.5%. It was 83.7% in 2010 compared to 77% in 2000.

Minh, a maths teacher, also states that “If we compare what was done ten years ago and what is required now, we are regressing significantly.”. A young SVT teacher, Alexis, who has only been teaching for 4 years, is already seeing a reduction in the requirements at the start of his career. There were no SVT exams this year, since physics, chemistry and technology were drawn at random. However, he supervised the exams, and deplores that “For some subjects there are fewer questions, for others they are independent of each other” and therefore do not require the previous questions to be successfully answered. He finally states “We end up wondering if students really need to learn anything before coming to the tests”.

Various causes mentioned

A first hypothesis put forward to explain the simplicity of the exam this year is the Covid-19 pandemic, and the multiple lockdowns it has caused. Sylvain, a maths teacher, is indeed asking himself this question since the students who took their brevet this year were confined during their sixth year, a decisive year for all young people. “At that time, most students are not independent.”adds Axelle, French teacher, “and working from home was obviously more complicated.”

Others suggest that this facility was in anticipation of Gabriel Attal’s “knowledge shock” reform, which will make obtaining the middle school certificate compulsory for entering the second year of high school, starting in 2025. Contacted by Le Figarothe Ministry of National Education denies all accusations of simplification of the tests, as well as the hypotheses put forward to try to justify it. “The subjects are developed in June preceding the exams,” explains the press officer. “Nothing to do with the prefiguration “clash of knowledge”,which was only announced in December nor with the health crisis”. Not believing that the tests are easier from year to year, the rue de Grenelle evokes a “chance” as to the ease of this year’s.

Another new feature: academic corrections, intended to equalize grades within an academy, are abandoned as part of Gabriel Attal’s reform. These commissions generally allowed grades to be rounded up to the next point, and even to be frankly inflated in several academies. About the “clash of knowledge” Several teachers wonder: with the current academic level and requirements, more students will not obtain their brevet. Hence for some the need to facilitate the exam, to avoid future transitional classes being full and ineffective. Indeed, all those who fail the brevet will join “preparatory-secondary classes”, in which they will carry out a refresher course. Ultimately, these classes should allow students to return to the second year of secondary school the following year, both in the general and technological streams and in the vocational streams. It remains to be seen whether this reform will not be abandoned in the coming days, as the political context is more than uncertain..

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