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Baccalaureate 2022: final exam or continuous assessment, which is fairer?



The anguish from the moment you walk into the room, the watchful eye of the examiner, the countdown that begins… Some 500,000 general and technological terminal students are preparing to discover the memorable ritual of the baccalaureate. From May 11 to 13, everyone passes two “specialty” tests (chosen from a catalog of 43, from mathematics to the arts via management), an innovation linked to the reform of the exam. Their marks, associated with those of philosophy, French and the great oral, will count for 60% of the final result. The remaining 40% will be based on the average of their first and final year reports: the famous “continuous assessment”.

Consider the student as a whole

This combination, which reduces the part of the anonymous exam, taken at a given time and identical for everyone, in favor of long-term evaluation, by teachers who know their students and whether or not they measure their progress, produces it a more faithful reflection of the level of the candidates? In other words, is the continuous assessment system fairer than that of the final examination?

→ TESTIMONIALS. Baccalaureate: how continuous assessment shakes up the lives of high school students

First, an observation. In addition to the baccalaureate, an increasing number of selection processes are introducing continuous monitoring. This is a “general slippage”according to sociologist Pierre Merle, specialist in educational policies (1). Parcoursup, the system for entering higher education, takes into account first and final grades as well as a “motivated training project” written by the candidate, consisting of explain, in a few lines, what (the) motivates and explains the steps taken to find out about the training courses that (I’) interest ».

Similarly, Sciences Po Paris has replaced its entrance examination with a file consisting of high school reports, baccalaureate marks and work done at home – cover letter, essay on the professional project, presentation. Only an oral puts the candidate in exam conditions.

These systems are theoretically fairer, because they base the selection on a broader base of abilities than the examination. This is one of the virtues of continuous assessment: going beyond the purely cognitive dimensions to consider the student as a whole, taking into account in particular “fluency in speaking, reasoning, propensity to launch and carry out projects, willingness to work with other students”, list Thomas Kellaghan and Vincent Greaney, two education specialists, in a World Bank report on the practice of examinations. The exam would therefore not allow everyone to best express their potential because it causes stress, is too limited in time, too academic…

However, these conditions, however restrictive, do they not prepare for situations in the world of work, such as a job interview or a presentation in front of clients? Thus, does generalized continuous monitoring not risk overprotecting students from the realities that await them? The grand oral, instituted by the reform of the baccalaureate, partly preserves this training.

How to ensure fairness?

Another risk worries specialists more: the questioning of fairness. Indeed, from one high school to another, the ratings vary: 12 out of 20 here is equivalent to 15 out of 20 there, or even 17 elsewhere… However, continuous assessment includes these marks, which count for the baccalaureate as well as for Parcoursup. Likewise, some teachers have a tougher hand than others. Biases can also influence the latter: the age, gender, social background of the student, etc. “Students from privileged backgrounds, for example children of teachers or liberal professions, are more often good students. This situation creates positive expectations on the part of the teachers and unconsciously favors an overnotation of these students.explains sociologist Pierre Merle, who has worked on “docimology”, the study of evaluation.

→ DEBATE. Does continuous assessment weaken the national scope of the baccalaureate?

Another logical consequence of continuous assessment: the change in the role of the teacher. “In terminale, he was the coach for the exam, analyzes the researcher. Now, he is also the referee, which can deteriorate relations with the students. » A dual role that leads some of them, or even their parents, to seek to negotiate their grades, especially in the context of paid education… “Some friends, in the private sector, have pressure from their students to give them good grades”, testifies Delphine, professor of history-geography and moral and civic education in a public high school, in Toulon. However, this is not inevitable: “With me, the students know that negotiating is out of the question. »

Through its anonymity, the examination has the merit of rendering these variables inoperative. Admittedly, this promotes other biases. “After a bad copy, the teacher, by contrast effect, grades more favorably and vice versa after a very good copy”explains Pierre Merle, who nevertheless puts things into perspective: “When there are several trials, these phenomena randoms cancel each other out. » In the context of continuous monitoring, fairness is also called into question by taking into account work carried out at home. Some students may indeed receive help from their relatives, or even from companies specializing in the subject, to write a cover letter for example. What about those whose parents do not have the desire, the capacity or the means? “This aid, which is inevitable, creates considerable inequality of treatment”regrets Pierre Merle.

An inequality which, however, could be reduced. “In high school, you would have to devote hours to preparing cover letters”, says Éric Charbonnier, an analyst in the directorate for education and skills at the OECD. In other words, adapting teaching to allow all students to benefit from the full potential of continuous assessment. “In Finland (often cited as an example for teaching, editor’s note)in continuous assessment, students’ ability to be creative or to have self-confidence is assessed, recalls Éric Charbonnier. In France, we remain focused on cognitive abilities. »

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