• The Minister of National Education signed this Wednesday a protocol with the General Secretariat of Catholic Education to promote social diversity.
  • A text that does not provide for quotas of scholarship holders, but intentions declined in several areas.
  • Non-binding measures that are difficult to predict will bear fruit.

This is one of the priorities that Pap Ndiaye has set himself since his arrival on Rue de Grenelle: to improve social diversity in institutions. Eagerly awaited by the unions, this mixed plan has finally deflated over the months. After being repeatedly postponed, the first announcements were made last week for the public, via minimalist communication to journalists. In a simple press release and without a press conference in support, they learned that the rectors aimed to increase social diversity in public institutions "by reducing the differences in social recruitment between institutions by 20% by 2027".

This Wednesday, it was the turn of the private sector, with the signing of a protocol on school and social diversity between the General Secretariat of Catholic Education (which represents the majority of schools under contract) and the Ministry of Education. Because it is in the private sector under contract that the project is the most colossal: because if it is financed at 73% by the State, it welcomes only 12% of scholarship holders, against almost 30% in the public. Here again, the Ministry of Education unveiled in a very subdued way, via a press kit sent, the roadmap entrusted to Catholic education.

Increase the rate of scholarship holders, but under conditions

Exit the quotas of scholarship holders imposed on private institutions and the attachment of the latter to the school map. Philippe Delorme, the secretary general of Catholic education, Eric Ciotti, the president of the Republicans and Gérard Larcher, the president of the Senate having waved the specter of a "school war", the wing of the plan seems to have been reduced. "It's a realistic protocol. We do not change the face of the world with a wave of a magic wand, "says Philippe Delorme, secretary general of Catholic education to 20 Minutes.

"We are committed to doubling the number of scholarship holders in schools in five years, provided that they benefit from the social assistance that is granted to public students to finance the canteen and school transport," explains Philippe Delorme. According to him, the price of the canteen (about 1,000 euros per year) represents an obstacle for low-income families. But these good intentions may not have any effect if municipalities, departments and regions do not put their hands in their pockets. "Because it is an additional cost for local authorities in a period of strong budgetary constraints," says sociologist, Pierre Merle. "On the other hand, local authorities with a right-wing or centre-right political orientation, often in favour of the development of private Catholic schools, will more easily increase their social assistance. Conversely, those whose political orientation is rather left-wing will be reluctant, especially because they will fear that private institutions will choose only scholarship students of a good academic level to the detriment of public institutions with disadvantaged recruitment, "he adds.

Modulation of registration fees

Another commitment of the private sector: to ask establishments to charge differentiated rates according to the income of families. "Currently, about 30% of them do it, but I would like a very large majority to do it," says Philippe Delorme. The number of institutions offering modulated contributions will therefore increase by at least 50% in 5 years, he promises. But according to Pierre Merle, "this modulation will probably remain limited so as not to increase too much the tuition fees of the children of executives who are most often good students and ensure good academic results and the attractiveness of private institutions".

To ensure that families know what to expect in terms of school fees, a database detailing them, as well as the aids available, will be set up. "It will be available during the All Saints' Day holidays 2024, because it is not so easy to retrieve this data for 8,000 establishments," explains Philippe Delorme. As establishments in large cities are the least mixed, Philippe Delorme would also like to develop annexes in the more disadvantaged suburbs: "A Bordeaux establishment could, for example, open an annex in Bègles. "

The best scholarship students recruited?

As for the unions' fears that the private sector will be content to capture the best scholarship students, Philippe Delorme brushes them aside: "This is a very unfair trial of intent when we already welcome many students in difficulty. " Pierre Merle is more circumspect: "There is little doubt that each private institution will choose the best students in order to maintain a good level of result in the brevet and baccalaureate. It is therefore to be expected, if the objective is achieved by Catholic institutions, an increase in social diversity without a significant improvement in academic diversity, which is such a desirable objective".

Catholic Education has also promised to develop the adapted general and vocational education sections (Segpa), which welcome students with academic difficulties, and the localized units for inclusive education (Ulis), which are currently few in the private sector. But again, no numerical target is indicated. "These specific students require complex and expensive care, do not contribute to the attractiveness and good academic results of private education and, for this reason, are largely neglected. We must not prejudge the goodwill of Catholic education, but I fear that, in this area, their efforts remain limited," comments Pierre Merle.

Very mixed reactions

Unsurprisingly, these announcements concerning the private sector have provoked disappointed reactions from the unions. In a statement, the Sgen-CFDT, described these measures as "non-binding" and said that they "will not be enough to increase the social diversity of students". According to Pierre Merle, if he had wanted to be more ambitious, Pap Ndiaye could have decided to modulate the financial aid of schools according to the social origin of the students in school. "For both public and private schools, the budget allocation per student could be increased for children from working-class backgrounds and reduced otherwise. This financial incentive could lead private schools to enrol more children from middle and working-class backgrounds. »

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