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Emmanuel Macron acts on the “optional” return of maths in first

Pressed from all sides, Emmanuel Macron had, during his campaign, promised to review the place of maths in the architecture of the new high school. We now know how it will go about it.

→ ANALYSIS. High school reform, the real math problem

“We will reintroduce in first class the possibility of choosing mathematics as an option”, announced the President of the Republic, Thursday, June 2, during a trip to Marseille devoted to education. “There will always be the maths specialty, but there will be the possibility offered to all students to choose outside the specialty the hour and a half of mathematics that had been taken out of the common core”, he specified.

Girls desert math

Since the high school reform implemented from the start of the 2019 school year, mathematics was only one of the 13 specialty courses offered in addition to a common core. From the end of second, high school students could stop studying this discipline. And those who choose it from among their three “spé” de première (four hours per week) can still abandon it during the transition to terminale, where they only keep two specialties (six hours per week) to pass in the final examination of the baccalaureate .

→ EXPLANATION. Baccalaureate 2022: instructions for the specialty tests

Admittedly, mathematics has established itself as the most followed specialty (64% of first year pupils, 37% of those in terminale). And high school students eliminating the “special” math at the end of the first year still had the possibility of choosing “complementary math” for the final year, allowing them to acquire the necessary bases to then follow studies in economics, psychology, or even medicine.

But these figures should be compared with the 85% of students who previously took maths until the end of high school, in the (now extinct) S, ES and even partially L streams. The overall volume of hours of maths taught in high school decreased by 18% between 2018 and 2020. Another alarming finding is that this decline in maths is particularly noticeable among girls: barely a quarter of them benefit from more than six hours of teaching per week in this discipline, compared to 45% before the reform.

A compromise solution

Emmanuel Macron corrected the shot. But it does not follow, at least not immediately, the recommendations of the committee of experts which issued its conclusions in March. This recommended injecting an hour and a half to two hours of math per week into the common core, therefore making this discipline compulsory for all.

The Head of State and his new Minister of Education Pap Ndiaye were partly sensitive to the arguments of the unions, which warned them against any change in haste. In high schools, the year for second students is about to end and it takes a little time to organize the implementation of the option. Above all – this is one of the reasons that had led to leaving math out of the common core – national education is facing a growing crisis of vocations, particularly in this discipline. This year, at the Capes, there were only 816 eligible out of 1,035 vacancies.


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