The level of young French in mathematics: “The level of demand has fallen” according to some teachers

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Juliette was a math teacher from 1971 to 2007 and mostly taught at a college in the suburbs of Toulouse. Frédéric, 58, has been teaching since 1986. In front of him are students from the 1st and 12th grades of the secondary school in Albi. Both are in love with their discipline and have seen the level of students develop in recent years.

“If students’ levels have fallen in math, it’s because program levels have been gradually falling since the 1976 reform of the unified high school, according to Juliette, a teacher who has been retired since 2007. This had positive effects on the overall average, but in such a demanding discipline, we had to adapt. Keeping students in school as long as possible is very good. But wanting to teach the same thing to everyone at the same time, that’s not possible.”

Frédéric, however, urges us to be careful with comparisons. “When I started, 30 percent of the age group came to high school, today it is 60 percent, so there are more of them. And as for the number of hours, we lost a lot, so a more ambitious program came in a few years. We always find students with a satisfactory level. But we have difficulties in the second year compared to the number of students with high difficulties. In addition, we have had to integrate “dys” into our classes. By making room for everyone, we have emphasized the gaps. And these are made even bigger by personal work . The taste for effort is less present than before. So it’s more complicated.”

Frédéric also notes the specificity of mathematics, “it is a subject where you can be proud of your weaknesses”. However, like Juliette, he points out “the training in reasoning which the discipline affords. We assert something when we have proof”… which can prove very useful in these times. Regarding the evolution of pedagogy, Frédéric observes that “it is the subject that has changed the most”. On the other hand, it asks about entry-level employment. “They often have little scientific education. It’s not enough.”

Juliette approves. “If high school kids aren’t very good, it’s because they weren’t trained well in elementary school. I’m sorry to say that.”

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