Formative assessment is defined as assessment conducted in the course of activity and is an integral part of learning. It is aimed at appraising the progress made by the pupil and understanding the nature of the difficulties the pupil has encountered; its purpose is to improve, correct or adjust the pupil’s path; it is partly based on self-assessment. Each school allows every pupil the opportunity to progress at his or her own pace.
Formative assessment can be done informally but it can also be based on more systematic tools: self-evaluation sheets, observation grids, questionnaires, integrated tests, ...
Sommative assessment is usually done after one learning sequence and aim at identifying and validating students' achievements.
The summative assessment is done in a formal way and uses systematic tools such as observation grids, questionnaires, integrated tests, projects, ...
The French Community also organises external summative and certificatives evaluations which question students on the basis of a test with the same instructions, questions and marking criteria for all. They are linked to the awarding of a Certificate :
- the Certificate of primary education (CEB : Certificat d’Etudes de Base). The test is compulsory for
- all pupils in the 6th grade of primary school in regular education,
- pupils in 1st, 2nd differentiated year or attending an additional differentiated year of form 4 ordinary or specialised secondary education,
- pupils enrolled in the 1st common year of ordinary or specialized secondary education (form 4) who do not hold the CEB,
- Pupils in home education who will have reached the age of 12 on 31st August of the current calendar year ;
- the Certificate of first stage of secondary education (CE1D : Certificat d’Etudes du premier degré de l’enseignement secondaire). The test assesses the mastery of skills as described by the Core skills, in four disciplines: mathematics, French, science and modern languages. It is compulsory for pupils in the second year of common or complementary secondary education or in the second year of ordinary or specialized secondary education of form 4 ;
- the Certificate of Upper Secondary Education (CESS : Certificat d’Enseignement Secondaire Supérieur).
Moreover, assessment is one of the aspects for which educational freedom is guaranteed for each network. Except for the external evaluation, each controlling authority may therefore define for the schools which it controls the type and frequency of assessments, the scoring system and the way results are communicated, in compliance with the relevant laws, decrees, and orders. Within each institution, the study regulations or internal regulations establish the procedures for internal evaluations that the educational team puts in place. However, the practice of formative assessment is obligatory.
Pupils’ regular assessment is based on external certificative assessments, internal assessment procedures used by the controlling authority or the school (school reports) and by the class (formative and summative assessment arrangements introduced by the teachers).
The results of summary assessments are communicated to the pupils and parents via a school report. The intervals at which reports are issued and their content and form are defined by the controlling authority.
Making the level of studies a reality, the references guides must help the teaching teams to put into practice the permanent formative assessment as well as the summative assessment :
- the Core skills ;
- the skills and knowledge required at the end of the transition stream ;
- the skills and knowledge required at the end of the qualification stream ;
- the training profiles.
Committees set up by the Government and made up of representatives of the various organising authorities are responsible for producing sets of standardised assessment tests, which correspond to the different References Guides :
- An Assessment Tools Committee for the Core Skills ;
- An Assessment Tools Committee for the transition stream ;
- An Assessment Tools Committee for the qualification stream.
Designed for schools and for teachers, these tools are made available to them, together with an accompanying guide. They provide information about the types of questions that should be set for pupils and the expected level at given moments in the course of their studies. They are provided as guidelines : teachers remain free to use them.
Each year, the school head or the Organizing Authority in subsidized education, after having taken the opinion of the teachers, decides for each year of study, the choice of subjects submitted to the summative evaluation tests and the other modalities of their organization. According to the number of tests determined per session, per year and per form of education, the school head or the organizing authority distributes them over the entire period provided for the corresponding level. The school head or the Organising Authority draws up a schedule of summative evaluation test sessions including, in particular, the dates of examinations, class councils and parents' meetings, as well as the dates of the external Certificative evaluations.
Usually, one or two sessions of examinations are organised every year. The primary purpose of the June exam is to ascertain whether pupils have achieved the minimum competencies needed to progress. The school may organize a session in September. Depending on the decisions of the Class Council, a student deferred in June can take the exam in September.
Progression of pupils/students
The Missions Decree (Décret "Missions") (art. 95) specifies that decisions about pupils’ progression to the next grade or cycle and the issue of diplomas, certificates and pass attestations within a secondary education institution are the responsibility of the class council (see 6.)
In the event of success in the External Certificative Assessment tests, the Class Council must necessarily consider that the student has achieved mastery of the skills for the discipline(s) passed. It may consider that the pupil who has not passed the test has mastered the expected skills on the basis of a file containing copies of the reports, a detailed report from the teachers and, where appropriate, the Individual Learning Plan (PIA : Plan individuel d’apprentissage).
A pupil who has reached legal age, or the parents or guardian of a pupil who is still a minor, may inspect, if possible in the presence of the teacher responsible for the assessment, any test which constitutes all or part of the basis for the decision of the class council. Each controlling authority defines an internal procedure for handling any disputes that arise regarding the decisions taken within the school and aimed at promoting the reaching of an understanding between the different parties. If the internal procedure fails to produce agreement, the pupil who has reached legal age, or the parents or guardian of a pupil who is still a minor, may submit an appeal against a decision that the pupil has failed or only achieved a restricted pass. The appeal must include detailed argumentation, and is sent by registered letter to the Administration, which passes it on immediately to the Chairperson of the Appeal Committee.
The decisions of the Board of Appeal are based on the correspondence between the skills acquired by the pupil and the skills which he should normally acquire at that level of education.
Progression within the first stage
Pupils usually complete the common first stage in just two years.
At the end of the second year, the class council may decide to place the pupil in a supplementary year.
At the end of the differentiated first year, if they obtain the CEB, pupils may enter the common first year. If they have not obtained the CEB, they are steered towards the differentiated second year.
The Class Council may decide to direct to an additional year (2S) any pupil who, at the end of the second common or differentiated year, is encountering difficulties such that an additional year at the first stage of secondary education is essential to enable him/her to master the Core skills. Pupils who have to complete the first stage of secondary education in three years rather than two must be able to follow this additional year adapted to their learning needs in the same establishment.
This additional year may under no circumstances constitute a repetition of the previous year.
For any pupil oriented towards the additional year at the end of the first level, the Class Council establishes at the beginning of the year an Individual Learning Plan (PIA) which defines, in particular, the weekly timetable followed by the pupil.
A pupil may not under any circumstances spend more than three years in the first stage. If at the end of these three years the class council does not certify the successful completion of the first stage of secondary education, it defines the forms of education and streams that the pupil may attend in the third year of secondary education (second stage) and informs the parents or guardian about them. The parents or guardian choose(s) :
- either one of the third years of secondary education corresponding to the forms of education and streams defined by the class council (the latter gives the pupil a document with additional guidance, indicating the courses of study that are recommended as well as those which might be inadvisable) ;
- or a third year of differentiation and orientation (3rd S-DO). During this year, the student's specific needs and particular learning difficulties are taken into account to help him/her continue the skills development begun. The timetable may be individualized according to the student's particular learning difficulties or special needs;
- or the Dual Vocational Education and Training (art. 45).
In specialized education
The pupil evolves according to his learning rhythm and his potential in the different degrees of maturity on the advice of the Class Council.
The class council takes the decisions about certification (with one exception: pupils who have passed the external examination relating to the certificate of primary education must be awarded this certificate). Appeal procedures exist.
Within the differentiated first stage
All pupils enrolled in the differentiated first or second year take the common external examination with a view to obtaining the certificate of primary education (CEB). The goal of this Differenciated First Stage is the acquisition of the Core Skills at 12.
The class council may issue the certificate of primary education to pupils enrolled in the common first year and in the years making up the differentiated first stage who have failed or have not taken all or part of the common external examination. The class council bases its decision on a dossier containing copies of the school reports for the current school year as sent to the parents or guardian of the pupil concerned, the PIA (Individual Learning Plan), the detailed report of the teachers who have been responsible for the pupil, and any other document deemed relevant by the class council.
The CEB (Certificate of primary education) is recognized by the French Community.
At the end of the first stage
In addition to the internal procedure, a common external certificative examination is organised at the end of the third phase in the educational continuum (CE1D). This relates to French, mathematics, modern language and science. The CE1D has been obligatory for all pupils since June 2013. It is for all pupils enrolled in the common second year, in the supplementary year organised at the end of the common second year, or in the third year of differentiation and orientation. If a subject is passed in the examination, the class council must consider the pupil to have attained the requirements of the Core Skills for the subject in question. If a subject is failed or if the pupil has not taken all or part of the examination, the class council may judge, on the basis of a dossier, that he or she has attained the required competences.
The class council awards a certificate of first stage studies (CE1D) to those pupils who have completed the first stage successfully. This certificate allows the pupils access to all forms of education and streams of the second stage.
The CE1D (Certificate of first stage of secondary education) is recognized by the French Community.
At the end of the specific year of differentiation and orientation (second stage)
Regarding the results of the external examinations and on the basis of a report on the competences acquired in light of the Core Skills for the end of the first stage of secondary education, the class council can award the pupil a certificate of first stage studies (CE1D).It directs the pupil who does not obtain the CE1D into the third year of secondary education, in whichever form and stream it stipulates. It then issues the pupil with a document containing additional advice relating to the study choices which are recommended, and, where applicable, those which are advised against.
The CE1D (Certificate of first stage of secondary education) is recognized by the French Community.