With the COVID-19 pandemic, the baccalaureate in France and around the world was severely disrupted. So how will the baccalaureate take place this year, what is the history of the baccalaureate, how do young people around the world feel about such a situation? This time, Grunge News has looked into the history of this exam. You will find the answers to these questions and more in this article with in-depth explanations, interviews, etc ...
The first exams appeared in France in the 14th century. At that time, they were divided into four branches: Law, art, theology and medicine. They took place at the faculty and only males had access to them. This was Considered elitist, because at the time, only a minority of French people could study. Moreover, the four branches did not have the same value, theology being considered more prestigious than art, for example.
Then came the French revolution, and with it the closure of the faculties. It was not until 1808 that Napoleon I reopened the schools and decided to introduce the "bachot", the original name for the baccalaureate. With this examination he wanted to make France an intelligent nation and create administrative and political elites. It was also the first time that education was run by the state and not by the Church. This exam was divided into 5 disciplines based on God's ideology (literature, medicine, law, science, theology). It was Napoleon who constructed the form and content of the baccalaureate that we are all familiar with. First was the oral tests, then the written tests and finally the arrival of the mentions. These mentions raged from promising descriptions to terrible ones.
It was only in 1890 when Jules Ferry, ruling the exam obsolete, decided to reform it, and to add a grading system between 0 and 20 points. 10 years later, the first law prohibiting cheating on the baccalaureate was signed.
We must acknowledge the fact that the 19th century BAC was much more complicated than the one we know today, and required much more intensive work. Ultimately, we can compare it to the level of a master's degree in our current education system. The test is still considered very elitist, despite the reforms undertaken by the state.
In the 20th century, the baccalaureate became more popular. Women who weren't able to have access to this exam, 700 years after its creation, finally obtained the right to take it in 1924.
In 1930, public high schools were created, allowing middle-class children to continue their schooling education for longer. Much of the problem was the parents’ metalities, as they preferred having their children within the labour market at a young age, in order to provide for the family. That is why in 1959, compulsory schooling was extended to 16 years of age.
In 1968, the baccalaureate underwent a new reform. It was composed of 5 streams: series A (literature, philosophy), series B (economic and social sciences), series C (maths), series D (maths and natural sciences) and series E (maths and technology).
The French test became an early test.
Then in 1985, the professional baccalaureate was created.
All these changes made it possible to increase the success rate from 20 to 70% in 40 years. However, this desire to obtain a large number of baccalaureates each year lowered the general level of the examination. If you look at the success curve of the baccalaureate from 1967 to 2019, this rate has only increased !
Title : "Baccalaureate success rate"
Finally, in 1993, the baccalaureate took the form that we now know with the three streams, S, ES and L.
In a century and a half, the baccalaureate has thus gone from an elitist diploma to a diploma that is indispensable for access to higher education.
Since its creation, the baccalaureate has never been adapted to the country's political situation, except in 1968.
The revolution of May 1968, widely known, led teachers and students to protest out on the streets along with the rest of the population. Many schools were blocked, and classes were not provided. This situation became a crisis situation, and caused immense turmoil in the government. The Minister of Education refused to postpone the baccalaureate and ended up resigning from his post the same month. His successor, instead, organised an alternative to the Baccalaureate, with oral examinations, all held on the same day. The scores were announced that same evening.
That year the BAC obtained a passing rate of 81.3%, while the previous year's pass rate was only 60%.
The 1968 Baccalaureate is still remembered, being detrimental to thousands of students. Indeed, it was deemed less valuable than all other baccalaureates from previous years (from the point of view of employers.)
Today, the baccalaureate is experiencing a new reform again with the mandate of Mr. Macron.
Indeed in 2021, the baccalaureate will take a new form. This new baccalaureate is composed of four tests with its newest addition.. an oral exam. The E3Cs are tests that are part of a continuous control, but are nevertheless taken in the form of supervised tests and represent 30% of the final result of the examination. Whereas the scores obtained throughout the year count for 10% and 60% of the baccalaureate mark is based on the final tests.
It is April 3, 2020. Considering the current situation of a worldwide pandemic, Jean Michel BLANQUER, the French Minister of National Education, announced adaptations for the Bac 2020. Mr. BLANQUER then announced that for first year students, only oral French will be taught if there is obviously a return to normal circumstances. However, the number of texts required to be studied for the exam would be reduced to (12 for technological subjects and 15 for general subjects). The Minister also announced that all the final exams would be cancelled and that the scores awarded for the Baccalaureate would be the average of those obtained by the student in the first and second terms of the final exam. Third term scores could also be taken into account if the students return to school on time. Grades obtained during confinement will not be counted but a report card grade will be issued in addition to the continuous assessment.
" A Booklet Examination Board will decide on the final marks. This jury will study the school reports in order, if necessary, to value a commitment, the progress of the students, to guarantee equity between the candidates, and to verify, it is an important point, the assiduity of the candidates".
In order to get their baccalaureate, students must attend classes (if they are returning to school) until the 4th of July. Not negligible elements, the mentions "Fairly Good", "Good", "Very Good", "Congratulations" and "Medal" are preserved.
Title : "continuous control: distribution"
In blue : quarter 1
In green : quarter 2
In yellow : quarter 3 (minus the scores obtained during confinement)
Source: Ministry of National Education
In France, a final exam is required for a pupil's schooling in France, that being the "bac". This test also has its equivalents throughout the world.
In view of the turbulent news, we have mainly focused on two countries, the Netherlands and the United States, in which the Grunge News team interviewed students. The aim was to find out how young people around the world feel about this exceptional situation.
In the Netherlands, bars, restaurants, schools, ... are closed since March 16th and on March 24th, the Dutch government announced the cancellation of the final exams (being the equivalent in France of the French Baccalaureate). Same as in France, students in the Netherlands will be judged based on their grades and scores received during the school year, rather than having an end-of-year exam.
Grunge News found out how the young people lived the situation.
Interview of Grunge News to Sofie STOOP, 17 years old :
Grunge News: What do you think of the precautions taken by the government such as closing schools ?
Sofie: I think it's good because they take care of people and don't want them to catch the virus. But I don't think it's working so well because everyone my age is still hanging out with groups of more than 3 people. Not everyone follows the rules, now they have to fine people for disobeying the rules.
Grunge News: What is the atmosphere among young people in the Netherlands regarding the virus ?
Sofie : Most of my friends can't go out and live in apartments, so for them quarantine is very boring. I, on the contrary, found it really cool because now I have enough time to do the things I like (inside my house). I don't like the fact that I can't see my friends and go out, plus the weather is really good here right now so it's sad that we can't go out.
Interview of Grunge News to Yaisa STOOP, 17 years old:
Grunge News: Are you afraid of the virus, why ?
Yaisa: I'm not afraid of it, but the fact that we know nothing about it is what makes it scary. I don't know what will happen or how it will end. We have to be there for each other and know that we are all in the same boat.
Grunge News: What do you do in your daily life in confinement, what has changed ?
Yaisa: There have been many changes in my daily life, many of them positive. We must not stop because life goes on. I am not bored yet and I have something to do every day. I notice that we look at things from a different angle than usual because there is not much excitement happening now. The future is uncertain.
Let us now turn our attention to the situation in the United States :
Lilou TAUBAN, 17 years old and living in Miami, Florida summarizes the situation and answers our question: Could not taking your final exam penalize you for further studies ?
"My name is Lilou TAUBAN, I study in Miami in a school of Design (DASH). I'm a junior.
Every year students from primary to secondary school have end-of-year exams (standardized tests: FSA, EOC). Due to the COVID-19 virus, all schools in the territory have closed. As a result, the Ministry of Education explains that the schools will not apply the standardized tests but will use continuous testing by averaging the scores obtained over the 3 quarters of the year. For students who had been preparing or were preparing for these tests since the beginning of the year, this decision, although necessary for public safety, is disappointing. The tests for university classes (AP) are maintained, but different. All students will take the test at the same
time and most will have 45-minutes to complete it. The SATs (a test consisting of several tests to assess the candidate's general skills with: a reading comprehension MCQ, mathematics, optional essay) which are required for university application are cancelled for the time being and some universities no longer consider it as an entrance requirement. In these circumstances, students will not be penalized.
Personally, I agree with the revocation of the tests, because I am relieved to be home in the middle of this pandemic.
For my part, my standardized exams: EOC in History and EOC in English, (EOC stands for End-Of- Course) have been cancelled. My final grade for these two subjects will subsequently be my average over my 3 terms. On the other hand, following 2 parallel university classes (AP) for French and Art, I will have to take a 45-minute exam for each subject. »
Thanks to this article you now know the origin of the baccalauréat and its evolution in France. You also know how young people around the world feel about a situation that is in no way profitable for baccalaureate holders, as you will have been able to read in the interviews presented at the time. The baccalaureate, today in France, has its success rate which is only evolving, more and more necessary but less and less valuable.