France asks students and teachers to work harder to bring up school standards and scores  

France’s Minister for National Education and Youth, Gabriel Attal, has unveiled plans to raise the bar on education at every school age level with an ambitious programme dubbed ‘Shock of Knowledge’.

At a press conference on 5th December, Minister for National Education and Youth, Gabriel Attal, set forth his new plans for the country’s education system.  

Called the Choc des Savoirs programme – or Shock of Knowledge in English – the measures involved came about following two months of interviews in the field with almost 100 administrators, educators and researchers as well as a vast online survey that was completed by more than 23,000 teachers in mainland France. 

The essence of the programme is to improve standards across the board, from primary school through to middle and high school.  

Although progress has been made since a study in 2017, with the exception of ratings of middle school students, which have declined according to national and international evaluations, Attal says there is still more to be done. 

Among the measures to be introduced under the new programme: increased emphasis on annual objectives for students; improved teaching practices, with the introduction of international ways of learning, like the Singapore Method; the earlier introduction of important mathematics theories such as fractions and decimals; and more time for language, history and cultural classes.

Schoolchildren will be asked to work harder to achieve the goals set for their age group, but particularly those sitting the diplôme du brevet, which will be given increased weight and importance.  

Teachers of primaire age students will be asked to thoroughly review each child’s abilities and stop the practice of automatically allowing children through to the next level of school if “basic criteria have not been met”. Teachers will also be encouraged to regularly share test results with their students to give them a stronger understanding of their situation and to acknowledge areas that need work.  


“So much is played out from primary school,” said Attal. “Studies show it: most drop-out students were already in difficulty at the end of their first grade. This is why we made the choice, in 2017, to invest massively in primary schools. [Now it is] primary, middle and high schools: my wish is to restore standards at all levels.”  

The efforts at primary level do seem to have paid off. According to the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), an international study on the reading ability of nine to 10-year-olds that is conducted every five years since 2001 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, French students in this age group were the only in Europe to have improved reading comprehension since the previous test, and this was despite the pandemic. National exam scores mirror this revelation.  

Again, on average, French students entering 6th grade in 2023 have progressed by seven points in French and four points in mathematics compared to those of the same age in 2017. 

It is hoped the new measures will encourage more students to excel and exceed expectations, and make France’s education system top-notch.  

The minister’s speech merited educators as the leaders of this charge, saying, “It is with the teachers, by the teachers [and] thanks to the teachers that we will meet the challenge of raising the level.” 

To read the report and the measures involved, click here.


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Photo source: Javier Trueba, Unsplash