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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Et si demain il n’y avait plus assez de profs?

by Laurent Mouloud

In the future, what happens if there aren’t enough teachers?

Translated Monday 20 June 2011, by Nicole Hawkesford and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Already being felt in some parts of the country, this prospect could become widespread under the combined effect of redundancies, a crisis in the vocational sector and the massive numbers heading into retirement. Even the ministry is starting to get worried ...

As a communications professional, Luc Chatel is making the first move. And not without some nerve. In an interview yesterday with the Journal du dimanche, the Department of Education minister proclaimed in the headline, "I’m going to take on 1,700 staff" and announced that he was launching a "recruitment campaign" on Wednesday. A media storm was guaranteed. If only the ministry would clarify whether or not these 1,700 recruitments are accompanied by the elimination of 33,000 posts ... A rather overblown bluff, but significant nevertheless. Since what Luc Chatel doesn’t say is that those observing the school system are reporting, particularly this year, a worrying disinterest for the teaching professions.

The profession under attack

Last september, the number of candidates registered for the 2011 competitive recruitment exams saw a reduction of 25% for the ’CAPES’; the secondary teaching diploma (secondary school and college), more than 30% for technical and professional teaching, and almost 40% for school teachers. And in November, those who sat the written admission papers were even fewer in number.

The results are being felt. This year, the number of eligible candidates who will take the oral admission tests in June is in freefall. There are 7,543 candidates for the external competitive CAPES exam, for 4881 available positions. Last year, there were nearly 11,000 candidates for almost the same number of positions... In certain subjects, the number of candidates actually proves to be fewer than the number of available posts. In the CAPES for Classical studies, there are 103 candidates for a total of 185 positions. And in music, there are 114 candidates for 120 positions. Sometimes, the number of candidates is only just above the number of available posts; 1,057 for 950 mathematics positions; 1,011 for 800 modern languages posts ...

"The level of selectivity is at its lowest" laments Emmanuel Mercier, national secretary of SNES; the secondary school teacher’s union, who is in charge of training. This 2011 transfer marks a real fault line. "Soon we risk facing a major crisis in the recruitment of teachers" At the ministry, they would like to believe in a "transitional" phenomenon due to the education reform which has raised the level required to sit the competitive exams by two years (baccalaureat + 5). "That has indeed affected the number of potential candidates" responds Emmanuel Mercier "but it isn’t due to that alone."

The drop in the number of positions open to the competition since 2007; the thundering annual announcements of the thousands of eliminations of positions; the deplorable entry conditions into the profession for young teachers... So many elements which are pushing an increasing number of students to turn their backs on teaching. In fact, in universities, the new masters courses designed as preparation for the profession are far from full. "The registrations for the first year of the masters courses preparing for the 2012 competitive exam has seen a reduction, taking all the courses into account, of more than 55%" confirmed Jean Louis Auduc recently, assistant manager of the Créteil IUFM (teacher training insitute), for whom "the number of teaching vocations is collapsing."

"A chisel effect"

The situation is all the more worrying because all the other warning lights are red.
20% of the 275,000 secondary school and college teachers are aged between 55 and 60. The numbers leaving for retirement will therefore be huge in the next five years. And, thanks to the baby-boom of the year 2000, the number of students about to start the first form is increasing rapidly. 48,500 more students are expected at the start of the next school year; and all of this is set against the backdrop of a constantly advancing birth rate. France recorded 797,700 births in 2010, compared to 774,800 in 2000.

Finally, with the rise in the recruitment of students, the competition with the private sector is all the more keen. In certain subjects, particularly the sciences, having a masters degree can open the door to more interesting opportunities. The average salary of a novice engineer hovers around €2,800, when that of a qualified teacher is at €1,689. Difficult to compete with that... "We are faced with a chisel effect which could become dramatic if nothing is done to improve the appeal of the teaching professions" reiterates Emmanuel Mercier. To escape from this downward spiral, SNES is campaigning for the establishment of pre-recruitment (see opposite). For himself, Luc Chatel is relying on communication.

A projection for primary education

Following the fresh round of protests in Paris on Friday, where 700 people voiced their opposition to the redundancies at the behest of the FCPE (the students’ parents federation), Luc Chatel confirmed yesterday that a "differentiated process" would be reserved for primary education next year. "My objective is that at the start of the 2012 academic year there will be just as many classes as in 2011" he stated in the Journal du Dimanche. "Trying to close fewer classes to stifle local protests in the pre-election period - it’s easy to guess the strategy." That was the reaction of Snuipp (the NUT equivalent), who reiterate that it has been "confirmed" that one out of every two civil servants will not be replaced.

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