It is a widely shared opinion: mathematics is the weak link in the high school reform. And the Minister of Education himself is beginning to recognize this. “I’m not saying it’s a non-issue. It’s a serious subject, and I’m very open to proposals,” he said on CNews, Sunday, February 6.
Since 2019, the general track courses have given way to an à la carte high school, with specialty lessons (three in first, two in final) completing a common core. But mathematics, as such, does not appear there. At the end of the second, high school students have no choice but to stop maths or to continue their learning within the framework of a “spé” at a very high level, at least equivalent to that of the old series. scientist.
Admittedly, maths is asserting itself as the queen of specialties, favored by 64% of first year students and 37% of those in the final year. But we are far from the 85% who, in the past, studied them until the end of high school, in S, in ES and even partially in L. The overall volume of math hours taught in high school has logically fallen by 18% between 2018 and 2020. The Minister replies that students now study math by choice, with more appetite and requirements.
Girls are also much less likely than boys to choose this specialty. Barely 25% of them receive more than six hours of math instruction per week, compared to 45% before the reform. This risks ruining decades of efforts to feminize scientific training and professions.
If the minister, usually little focused on self-criticism, now concedes that the reduction in the offer of maths is proving problematic, it is because the subject finds an echo in the campaign for the presidential election. In particular on the right, where Valérie Pécresse castigated, in mid-January, on BFM, “a perverse effect” of the Blanquer reform. However, the Minister does not plan to reintegrate mathematics as an independent discipline within the common core. He only suggests increasing their share in the “scientific education” provided two hours a week – most often by physics-chemistry and SVT teachers.
Another track would have consisted in introducing from the first the option “additional maths” proposed in final to the pupils having abandoned the “spé” but which, in their higher studies, will need to control the probabilities or the programming, for example. Some associations of math teachers would gladly settle for such a solution, less resource-intensive and perhaps more realistic. Because their subject is particularly affected by the shortage of teachers. Last year, of the 1,167 positions offered at Capes, 100 could not be filled.