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Minister of National Education, the difficulties of a very exposed portfolio

This is his first trip alongside the President of the Republic, his first real appearance since taking office, Rue de Grenelle: Pap Ndiaye will be this Thursday, June 2 in Marseille, laboratory of educational reforms by Emmanuel Macron.

→ PORTRAIT. Pap Ndiaye, a historian at the head of national education

The time has come for this historian, hitherto director of the Museum of the History of Immigration, to fully put on his minister’s clothes. Assailed by criticism from his appointment for his supposed links with “woke” ideas, this intellectual without much experience of political apparatuses began to make his mark at the head of a very singular house, the national education system.

“A ministry of crisis… and long term”

“It is both a ministry of crisis and a ministry of the long term”, analyzes Luc Chatel, who held this position under Nicolas Sarkozy. “Ministry of crisis, because with 12 million students and one million agents, statistically, you are confronted daily with tragedies, a school that is burning, a teacher attacked… A long-term ministry too, because there are years between the time a reform is decided upon and the time it takes effect. »

→ ANALYSIS. National Education: Pap Ndiaye, why so much hatred?

Luc Chatel found “exciting” his experience at the head of this ministry which he had not really asked for. A ministry that relies “on a very well-oiled administrative machine” and who is also “very political, because it affects what people have most importantly, their children”. Everyone has their own opinion on the school, following their own education. “As if France had 67 million ministers of education”, sums up this right-wing man.

“School, a passionate question”

“More than elsewhere, school is a matter of passion in France”, abounds the professor of education sciences Ismail Ferhat. “The slightest comma change in a history program can start a storm,” he quips. What to offer to the tenant of Rue de Grenelle “great visibility”. What also reserve multiple pitfalls for him.

Is this enough to make the Ministry of Education “place of the dead” within the government, as an adviser to Xavier Darcos suggested? Probably not. Some, such as Jack Lang or François Bayrou, have managed to maintain a form of popularity in this position… Even if it means sometimes stroking the mammoth in the direction of the hair. The difficulty lies in addressing the general public, the administration, learned societies, teachers, of course, and their unions… “National education has a unionization rate of 25 to 30%. Rate disproportionate to that of the private sector, where it only reaches 11%”, recalls the socio-historian Laurent Frajerman.

A delicate context

This statistic regularly translates into strikes and unrest, in a context where many teachers feel discredited and no longer find meaning in their profession. This is the case for a third of them, according to the recent Unsa barometer. And even if they defend it, some of these unions show conservatism. We often see them defending a status quo born of a vigorously opposed reform ten or fifteen years earlier…

Jean-Michel Blanquer had made trust a key word, without managing to create it, in five years of mandate. “He has actually tried, in vain, to embody the institution as much as possible, with a vertical governance that is no longer adapted to its largely decentralized, decentralized operation”, commented Alexis Torchet, national secretary of Sgen-CFDT.

What will be the style, the projects, the ambitions of Pap Ndiaye, a personality that some imagine as opposed to Jean-Michel Blanquer? Will he know, asks Alexis Torchet, “reinjecting meaning into piloting” of the institution? Perhaps he should refrain from multiplying the reforms as his predecessor did to “move the debate to another field, that of the school climate”suggests for his part Laurent Frajerman.


Marseille, laboratory of the “school of the future”

As part of an aid plan (1.5 billion euros in new funding) for the city and its schools, some of which are dilapidated, Emmanuel Macron announced last September that he wanted to make Marseille the site of experimentation of “the school of the future”. Among the innovations, the creation of a “laboratory” for teaching mathematics in primary school. The Head of State wishes above all to experiment with a new method of recruitment, leaving, as of the next school year, to the directors of around fifty schools the choice of their teachers.


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