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Education Debates in Contemporary France

Module Code: FR3XX
Module Name: Education Debates in Modern France
Module Credits: 15

The aim of this module is to allow students to study French educational debates not just in their own right, but also as a way of extending and deepening their understanding of French history and culture. In their debates about education, social groups define what they wish to pass on to succeeding generations; they articulate understandings of equality, social justice and liberty; they relate economic demands to other concerns; they frame relations between reason and various belief systems, and between national identity and other cultures; they specify ways in which future elites are officially produced. This module will trace and account for the distinct forms that these arguments have taken in France, and will introduce students to ideas on education and a historical framework through which they can better understand and analyse them.

Rather than pursuing an exhaustive history of education in France, this module will focus on a number of debates that are of topical concern today, while placing these within a broad historical and social perspective:

  • What are the relations between democracy and education?
  • How should equality of educational opportunity and fairness within education best be understood?
  • How does education in France compare to that in other countries?
  • Are the prestigious ‘grandes écoles’ a good way in which to produce social and political elites?
  • What is the point of universities in France? How should ‘university autonomy’ be understood?
  • Should France still be trying to increase levels of qualification, or has this strategy produced harmful levels of educational ‘inflation’? Is the value of formal education exaggerated, or do more complex societies require more complex educational curricula?

In the first half of the module we will explore issues in secondary education; in the second half we will move on to higher education. We will study a carefully selected range of book excerpts, newspaper articles, video materials and policy documents.

Assessment Method:

50% - Assessed work (one essay of between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length)
50% - Formal examination
100% - One 4,000-4,500 word essay