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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les profs refusent la dérive managériale

by Laurent Mouloud

French Teachers Refuse Managerial Misdirection

Translated Thursday 22 December 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The teachers’ unions call for a show of force today against the government project to have teachers evaluated by their school principals. The "reform" aims to introduce an entrepreneurial vision of the education system.

It has become an impassioned debate, emphasizes Daniel Robin, co-general secretary of the SNES teachers’ union. It’s the subject concerning which the union members have strong convictions as to what they don’t want. "It’s not an overstatement to say that the project of reform of the evaluation of teachers lit a fire in the teachers’ rooms." Announced on 15 November, it was immediately seen to be a "declaration of war" by the SNES-FSU, principal union for the secondary schools, and also by most of the major federations of education. One month later, the tension remains strong.

A large inter-union group today called for a day of strikes and demonstrations.
Some 80 assemblies are planned throughout France. The petition demanding the annulment of the texts had, yesterday, more than 64,000 signatures by internet. At the beginning of the week, fourteen associations of specialized teachers (painting and sculpture, history and geography, literature, etc) also published a joint text denouncing the project, in which they see a "Trojan Horse" leading to a profound denaturing of the educational mission.

The government plans menace mainly the some 400,000 teachers in secondary schools. Heretofore, their evaluation was in two parts: administrative, for 40 points, by the school principal, and pedagogical, for 60 points, the most important for the career, made by the regional pedagogical inspector (IPR) having training in the discipline of the colleagues being inspected. The idea of the government is henceforth to entrust the central role to the school principal. He will not make class visits, but will interview each of the teachers every three years, and will propose to the rector of the academy that the career in question be accelerated or not, thus affecting the salary, by proposing additional years of seniority.

This new power seizure by the school principals is seen to be damaging. "The principals are not competent to make judgements concerning pedagogical and didactic choices made by teachers", insist the unions. Mainly, they see in this project a transformation of their profession. "It means that what goes on in class is no longer, in the eyes of the minister, the principal mission of the teacher", emphasizes the SNES, "He prefers to urge them to concentrate on the peripheries of their professions, which may be important but which do not lie at the heart of the teaching activity."

A School Conceived of as an Enterprise

What, exactly, will be judged by the principal? The wording of the projects as formulated and of the decree are not neutral. They speak of the evaluation as a measure of the "professional results obtained by the agent". In clear, he must find ways to "quantify" something as subjective as the teaching activity. In fact, the project transforms the question of school failure into a problem of productivity, and conveniently removes the blame from the policies put in place these past decades, much to the distaste of the associations of specialized teachers. In a school thus conceived of as an enterprise, where "objectives" are "assigned" to an "agent", education is reduced to "production" of results according to the same exigencies of profitability, while modeling the students according to the demands of the labor market.

A vision of the straight line of new "management" that Luc Chatel and his colleagues are trying to put in place can be seen in the national education system. For months already, the minister and the UMP party have made the "autonomy" of educational establishments the backbone of their political project for the schools. With the principal at the heart of this new organization, designated by the political right wing as the “real boss” running his “little educational company”, recruiting and evaluating “his” teachers, will become more than ever a submission to his will.

“Autonomy”, in the ideology of the right wing, is not to provide more pedagogical liberty, warns the sociologist Choukri Ben Aved, professor at the University of Limoges. “To the contrary, for the government, it’s a question of disengagement, and of shifting the responsibility for scholastic failure to the local level. The principal thus appears as one of the links in this managerial conception of the school system, which endeavors to align the public structures along the lines of the private and entrepreneurial model.”

The Front de gauche in the demonstrations

Demonstrations are planned in all the French departments. In Paris, the march starts at 14h30 at Denfert-Rochereau (14e arrondissement) and ends at Sèvres Babylone (7e). The PCF and its partners in the Front de gauche affirm their entire solidarity with the inter-union group for national education, and call for mobilization. The Front de gauche will be present in the Paris demonstration, with a meeting point at the level of the metro Vavin.

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