Students are encouraged to compete for the best marks and marks that will allow them to study in prestigious prestigious schools and then become part of the French professional or political elite.
Now, a new TV series aims to show that not everything must be lost for those who fall on the side of the academic road.
Les Cancres (The Dunces) presents a group of high school students who are trained by French celebrities who have also struggled in school, some of whom left without obtaining their baccalaureate – the bac – the multi-subject exam which is the equivalent of A levels.
The first two episodes, produced by RMC Story, feature the Franco-Moroccan comic Gad Elmaleh and the rapper Black M. Businessman Adrien Aumont, co-founder of the crowdfunding site KissKissBankBank and the novelist Cécile Ladjali also appear in the series with Joël Bouraïma, sports coach of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
“Anything is possible, that is the message we are trying to get across … but that does not mean that everything is easy,” said Bouraïma. “Sure, part of the luck, but the most important thing is hard work and determination, that’s how the celebrities we feature in the program have succeeded. “
Cécile Ladjali added: “I am a former dunce and I was told that I would be a saleswoman in a clothing store … in the end I have a doctorate, I am a novelist and also a teacher. “
In his 2010 book, We Complete Schoolchildren (They shoot schoolchildren, right?), Author Peter Gumbel asks: “Why is France the only country in the world to discourage children because of what they cannot do, rather than encouraging them to do what they can? “
“The whole French hierarchy, political and commercial, is based on people who have done well in school and who go to the grandes écoles. More than anywhere else, it is the bac that will determine your career choices. It is very difficult to succeed in France if you don’t have it, “Gumbel told The Guardian.
“The grading system is not designed to encourage students or improve their work, it is about competition. What you do in school follows you for life and it’s very difficult to break away from that. If you don’t have the baccalaureate, you are considered on the job. “
Students at the first Les Cancres included Lucille, who did not sit for her baccalaureate exam.
“My mother cried and said I would end up in a soup kitchen or the job center.” Said Lucille. She has now changed schools and hopes to take the exam.
Nicolas Cennac, the director of the documentary, said that the objective of Cancres was “to represent people who have different experiences at school but who have enormous gifts”. He said his goal was to avoid stigmatizing students while not “glorifying” failure.
Among the leading French personalities who succeeded without passing their baccalaureate are the actors Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu, the singer Vanessa Paradis, the billionaire François Pinault, the president of the luxury group Kering, the couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier and the chef Michelin star Alain Ducasse. Emile Zola failed the exam twice.
Friday, the French Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced that for the first time the baccalaureate exams would not take place this year but that the students would receive the diploma on the basis of a “continuous assessment” of their work at school. It is the first time that the 1808 exam, which has been held annually since then, even during the Nazi occupation, has been canceled. French students should follow a full online course schedule during closings.
Gumbel said the French education minister was “in a difficult situation” because the French system was not suited to working from home.
“In France, teaching methods do not lend themselves well to online practice. Normally, the teacher is at the front of the class talking and everyone is taking notes. It doesn’t work when it has to be interactive. “