This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2020.
The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process.
The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:
- Early childhood education and care
- School education
- VET and Adult learning
- Higher education
- Transversal skills and Employability.
Inside each thematic area, reforms are organised chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.
Overall national education strategy and key objectives
In line with the programme of the President of the French Republic, François Hollande (elected in May 2012 for five years), the Government headed by Jean-Marc Ayrault and, since 31 March 2014, by Manuel Valls, has undertaken a process to reform the education system. On 26 August 2014, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was appointed Minister for National Education, Higher Education, and Research, thus succeeding Benoît Hamon.
Two major consultations with stakeholders involved in the Education sector were launched in 2012: one in view of the French school system reform ("Refondons l’École de la République" – "Let's Restructure Schools"); and the other to contribute to the reform of the Higher Education and Research system ("Assises de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche" – "Conference on Higher Education and Research"). Both of the bills presented by the Government following these consultations were debated and voted on in Parliament; and two new laws have been promulgated as a result in July:
- Guidance and Planning Law no. 2013-595 of 8 July 2013 for restructuring French schools, which underpins the school system reform. The purpose of this reform is to ensure academic success for all pupils (raising their level of knowledge, skills and culture; and reduce social and regional inequalities in academic success).
- Law no. 2013-660 of 22 July 2013 on Higher Education and Research, which focuses the Higher Education reform on three main objectives: success for all students; simplification of the higher education system and its governance; revival of Research. Decree no. 2014-1365 of 16 November 2014 relating to the organisation and function of the High Council for the assessment of research and higher education defines the role of the French independent administrative authority.
The specific measures stipulated for carrying the provisions of this new legislation are described in this chapter.
In 2015, the guidance and programming law no. 2013-595 of July 8th, 2013 for Restructuring schools of the French Republic allowed numerous reforms to be proposed and being set up starting September 2016. Since new educational cycles were created with the July 8th, 2013 law, a new common core of knowledge, skills and culture that covers mandatory school has been built along and will be set up with the new curricula per cycle.
The Collège reform has also been announced and approved by the Conseil Supérieur de l’Éducation (Superior Council for Education) during spring. This reform allows new forms of learning for students (interdisciplinary teachings, group projects, etc.) and focuses on the mastery of fundamentals. The last reform announced in the framework of the Programming law of July 8th, 2013 is the one of a simpler school book and the more comprehensive Diplôme National du Brevet.
Other measures and action plan were also announced during 2015. Following the attacks of Charlie Hebdo in January, the Department of National Education, Higher Education and Research had to focus on the Republican values, coexistence and secularism. This commitment lead to the informal meeting of education ministers of the European Union, which concluded on the citizen reserve was created by the Department, allowing volunteers to assist teaching staff with educational projects (especially on secularism and citizenship education) through exchange with students. Measures towards social and territorial inequality were also taken. These measures focus on the citizenship education are even more essential, after the new wave of attacks Paris suffered, on November 13th, 2015.
Finally, the territorial reform was translated to the Department of National Education, Higher Education and Research with the creation of Regional académies, and the first phase of the Plan for Digital in schools was launched in September 2015 with a first group of volunteering schools.
Overview of the education reform process and drivers
France’s education policy comes under the Minister for National Education, Higher Education, and Research, assisted by a Secretary of State responsible for Higher Education and Research.
Reform initiatives come from the Minister as part of sole “fundamental principles” defined by Parliament (article 34 of the Constitution), which only applies when the budget is discussed. With the exception of these two points, the process of reforming the education system thus comes solely under the executive.
The Minister relies on the departments of the central administration, which are responsible for preparing and giving form – at the Minister’s request – to regulatory provisions that contain the reforms that the Minister wishes to implement, as well as the framework for assessing those reforms. The Minister is assisted by Inspectorates General, which monitor the education system, its organisation, and its operation, and which are extremely pro-active in regards to the reforms to be implemented. However, the Minister can also draw inspiration from the work of a certain number of consultative councils tasked, in particular, with producing studies and analyses in their fields of competence and making suggestions or offering opinions concerning possible reform plans that may flow from those studies / analyses. Examples of those consultative councils are the Conseil Supérieur des Programmes (High Council for Educational Programmes), the Conseil National de l’Innovation pour le Réussite Éducative (National Council on Innovation for Educational Success), and the Conseil National Éducation – Économie (National Council on Education and the Economy) (please see Eurypedia for the composition and missions of those councils).
Once reform plans have been drafted, they must be submitted for an opinion to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Éducation (High Council for Education), or, in the case of higher education, the Conseil National de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche (National Council for Higher Education and Research).