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School: lessons for a year under Covid-19

A year ago, France urgently closed its schools. An unprecedented, unreal parenthesis that has not really closed, many high schools operating since November at a reduced level. What has the school learned from its strengths and weaknesses since then? “That the teaching world, often described as bureaucratic, capable of coming to a standstill at the slightest reform, has for the most part shown itself to be mobilized in the face of the students’ distress”, observes sociologist François Dubet.

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There were certainly counter-examples (the ministry estimated the proportion of teachers “lost to follow-up” at the start of confinement at 4%). But overall, notes François Dubet, “Most teachers clung to their computers to avoid losing contact with their students”. And when it came to getting back to class, “The profession has not exercised its right of withdrawal”.

“The mammoth showed unsuspected agility”

“The mammoth did not turn into a cheetah but it showed unsuspected agility, abounds Bruno Bobkiewicz, national secretary of the union of school leaders SNPDEN. While many parents, forced to support their children in learning, discovered that teaching was a real job, many teachers found the means to ensure their distance education in record time. “

“Adaptation happened naturally”, testifies Ronan Lessart, head of the Saint-Joseph d’Elven school (Morbihan) and vice-president of Synadec, organization of heads of Catholic education establishments. From the end of March 2020, his team set up a reception for the children of caregivers. “With courage and generosity, all of our teachers have agreed to come and work on a rotational basis. This episode really tightened the bonds within the team. “

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Once the schools reopened, it was necessary to adapt to the successive versions of the protocol, concerning the wearing of the mask or the distance to be respected between pupils. “What we are told in the morning may no longer be valid the same evening”, quips Ronan Lessart.

A drop in level in CE1

In terms of teaching, many were worried about a possible drop in level. The comparison of the national assessments of September 2020 and September 2021 showed a drop in level at the start of primary, in CP and especially in CE1. In French, for example, students fall back in seven of the eight areas (- 4.8 points for reading text, – 4.3 for reading words, – 4.5 for writing words, etc.) . And the gap between priority education and the rest of the education system started to rise again, as if confinement had erased the positive effect of the duplication of classes.

But at mid-year, the comparisons revealed, especially outside priority education, a “Rebound”, underlined by Jean-Michel Blanquer, with a slight progression in French, excluding comprehension of oral sentences, as well as in several mathematical fields. The result, according to the minister, of the French strategy of keeping schools open as much as possible.

France thus seems to have avoided the dreaded massive dropout. The dropout rate in pro high school has even fallen, compared to the previous year. “Proof that teachers have done everything to keep in touch with their students”, comments Fabienne Rosenwald, head of Depp, the ministry’s statistics department.

Rue de Grenelle, we never stop praising a ” educational continuity “ which in reality has been applied very differently. “ Unable to get real quantitative data, deplores the educational science researcher Stéphane Bonnery (1). But we see, for example, that many high school students, welcomed every other day or every other week, are left to their own devices the rest of the time and therefore only complete half of the program. “

The more than indulgent gaze of parents

However, the look of families on the action of the school during the confinement and the period which followed it, is more than indulgent. According to a BVA-Apel-La Croix back-to-school survey, 76% of parents consider their child’s follow-up to be regular, while 71% believe that the means implemented have enabled a good level of education.

There is still significant room for improvement on the digital front. An effort to catch up would be necessary, particularly where establishments are under-equipped. Emphasis should also be placed on training. “More than 125,000 teachers have trained online. Among them, 55% chose modules intended for hybrid, half-face, half-distance education ”, notes Marie-Caroline Missir, director of the Canopé network.


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