More internships and fewer courses? The vocational school is worried about a new reform which “gives up academic ambition”

At the end of the second, Melvin didn’t have much choice. “I was told: ‘Either you continue with a transport baccalaureate, or you stop high school'”, says the 20-year-old. He wanted to go into the trade sector. Disappointed, he nevertheless continued his training until the diploma. Today, he combines several jobs as a server and production assistant. By his own admission, he never really “blooming” in his vocational school. This observation of an orientation “suffered” is found in many of the testimonies collected by franceinfo.

Often perceived as “the trash industry” Where “the journey of the last chance”, the vocational high school is now singled out for its high rate of absenteeism and dropouts. The executive wants to operate a “deep transformation” of the sector, as Emmanuel Macron promised at the end of August to the rectors. The president wishes in particular to increase the duration of internships for vocational high school students by at least 50%, which would effectively reduce general teaching hours.

But the project presented in mid-September by the Head of State does not convince the main unions, which have mobilizedduring the interprofessional strike day of Tuesday 18 October. For Dylan Ayissi, former professional high school student and founder of the Une Voie pour Tous collective, there is no doubt that reform is needed. But “not that way”he says.

>> We explain to you why the reform of the vocational high school is controversial

Contacted by franceinfo, the ministry refers to the working groups initiated on October 21 to bring together the players in the sector around the table. The conclusions, expected by December, are supposed to guide the reform by the ministry in early 2023. Until then, franceinfo takes stock of a sector worried about its future and that of its 640,000 studentsor a little less than a third of high school students.

The 3rd class council in college is a pivotal moment for all students. The teenagers are about to find out whether or not they will be able to access the “holy grail” of general high school. If some choose the professional path of their own free will, many young people undergo an orientation that they did not choose, because of their poor academic results.

“These are often students who combine economic and social difficulties”, underlines Sigrid Gérardin, national secretary of Snuep-FSU, the majority union for vocational high schools. Several studies have in fact demonstrated an over-representation of students from working-class social classes in professional careers. A Sciences Po report established in 2014 that “students of modest origin” had “a 93% higher probability of being oriented in professional second and 169% higher of being oriented in CAP”.

“The professional course is affected by this feeling of exclusion that students can have, arriving in second.”

Dylan Ayissi, founder of the collective A path for all

at franceinfo

Disappointed with this “subjected orientation” at the end of 3e, these students very often arrive in second professional “completely unmotivated”, observes Patricia, an English teacher in a professional high school in Paris. “We must then give them back the taste of school. VSit may take a while”, she explains. Precious time that teachers do not always have.

Most of the teachers interviewed believe that they have lost class time over the past fifteen years. In question, according to them, a reform put in place in 2009, which saw the passage of the professional course from four to three years of teaching. “It’s a whole year of training that we lost”explains Sébastien Bouet, carpentry teacher in the Allier.

Another factor: the transformation of the professional path initiated by Jean-Michel Blanquer in 2018which introduced new lessons intended to make teachers work in pairs and build long-term projects with students. “In fact, it’s a good idea. But during this time, we can’t move forward on our course program”laments Patricia.

In the workshop, the consequences are obvious. “We no longer have time to do manufacturingillustrates Sébastien Bouet. As a result, we will rather assemble basic furniture, of the type that can be bought in a DIY store, so that the students can handle it as little as possible. But we can no longer manufacture from A to Z.” An observation shared by Fabien Desjardin, teacher in a high school pro printing in the Loire. “If I compare, I am able to do 20% of what I was doing in class 15 years ago”, he regrets. According to his calculations, he must now deal with only 7 hours of workshop per week in terminal, against two days of eight hours of practice at the start of his career.

Vocational subjects are not the only ones affected. “Give them the basics in general subjects” also becomes complicated, deplores Sigrid Gérardin. Among these general courses, we find French and history, but also mathematics, sport, modern languages ​​and applied arts.

“A good part of the high school pro students are already in difficulty at school. They need these general lessons at all costs to catch up.”

Sébastien Bouet, carpentry teacher in a professional high school in Allier

at franceinfo

In Melvin’s eyes, these general teachings represent a “chance” for students often “on the verge of stalling”. The former high school student in a pro transport baccalaureate has not forgotten how much this lack of lessons had weighed on him during his internship. “You arrive in a company and you realize that you don’t know anything at allhe explains. We learned the basics of the trade, but we didn’t have time to go in depth.” He lacked, he remembers, the mastery of certain rules of security and law. “Companies don’t necessarily have the time to teach us all that”adds Melvin.

“Internships are a bit of a lottery”recognizes Valérie *, head of a vocational high school in Occitania. “Students have a tutor on paper, but sometimes they never see himexplains Sigrid Gérardin. Result: there is often no pedagogy. Sophie, a former high school student in the wood arts baccalaureate, remembers having chained “repetitive tasks” during his early stages. An observation shared by Melvin: “We are aware that many companies use us as helping work.”

“In automotive training, students sometimes spend more time in the course washing floors than fixing cars.”

Valérie, principal of a vocational high school in Occitanie

at franceinfo

Many teachers interviewed also report the growing difficulties that students are encountering in finding an internship directly related to the profession for which they are training. “It happens more and more that students find nothingexplains Laurent Hisquin, professor of electronics in Avignon and representative of Snuep-FSU. We are therefore obliged to reduce the requirement so that they can still know the rhythm of the company. But it has an impact on the relevance of the course.”

This is why, when the idea of ​​increasing the periods in business emerges at the highest level of the State, on the ground, the anger rises. “We can clearly see that training is done first at school, before being done on an internship”, insists Sigrid Gérardin. To his eyes, “We are increasingly giving up on educational ambition for young people”. Because, without the fundamentals, it is success in exams and therefore the pursuit of studies after the baccalaureate which also seem to be compromised.

“We cannot both choose to put young people in business and promote their integration into higher education, it does not work.”

Valérie, principal of a vocational high school in Occitania

at franceinfo

For students in vocational high school, “the step is high” to access the BTS, says Valérie. The selection has increased since the establishment of Parcoursup, and the competition with the general high school all the more reinforced.

Sophie recalls her experience on the platform: “A small information in italics indicated below the training the percentage of students from bac pro recruited the previous year.” A number “often very low”, which discouraged students from applying. According data from the Ministry of Higher Educationstudents in vocational high school are ten times more likely than in general high school to have found themselves without a proposal at the end of the 2021 procedure.

It is ultimately a “Copernican Revolution” that should be carried out, says Eric Labastie, president of the Federation of Parents’ Councils (FCPE). According to him, “we must stop seeing the professional path as a path of relegation, and tell ourselves that all paths are equal and that each has its specificities”. A paradigm shift that seems necessary before any reform project.

*Name has been changed.

More internships and fewer courses? The vocational school is worried about a new reform which “gives up academic ambition”