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Grade Inflation In France

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.525.1 - 6.525.6

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Ian Simpson

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Abstract 124 - 60 International

Grade Inflation in France Ian R. Simpson Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne (ENST Bretagne)


Over the past few years, I have heard the following comments:

* "With a pass rate in the High School leaving exam of 80%, either the students and teachers have suddenly become brilliantly successful or standards have dropped" (A listener on a recent French radio phone-in show).

* "In our finals exams, we can’t set such complicated problems now as we did ten years ago". (A French Professor of Mathematics).

* "Students nowadays can’t write two words without making a mistake in spelling or grammar". (A teacher of the French language in a secondary school).

* "The Baccalauréat (High School leaving exam) no longer gives a satisfactory indication of a young person’s academic abilities". (A company recruitment officer).

* "A Licence (Bachelor degree) is no longer worth the paper it’s written on. They’ll soon be selling them with the soap-powder in the nearest shopping mall". (An apparently disillusioned French academic).

If true, the above statements present a very worrying picture of the state of the education system in France in 2001. What is the real situation? Are such comments as those above merely the mistaken opinions of people who still yearn for what they perceive as a past "Golden Age" of education when standards were much higher than nowadays, or is there a grain of unpalatable truth to be found in such statements? Is it possible to find objective statistical evidence that standards have risen or fallen dramatically over the past decade? This article attempts to answer these questions.

The following framework should be borne in mind while analysing the situation in France:

* There are some 90 "Universités" in France in the year 2001, varying in size from a few thousand students up to around 50,000. * There are some 170 "Grandes Ecoles" in engineering in France, whose size rarely exceeds more than 1,000 students each. * 1.25 million people are paid by the Ministry of Education, 70% of whom are teachers. * There are currently some 1.5 million students registered on course of Higher Education in France. * Just over 23,000 "Diplômes d'Ingénieur" (Engineering Diplomas) are awarded every year in France, after a period of 5 years studies after the High School leaving examination.

”Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Simpson, I. (2001, June), Grade Inflation In France Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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