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Gabriel Attal wants to "label" textbooks

2023-12-05T14:07:32.278Z

Highlights: Minister of Education Gabriel Attal is going to "label" school textbooks. He wants content whose effectiveness "has been proven by science and practice" Teachers, on the other hand, invoke their pedagogical freedom. The publishers fear "an additional layer of complexity" and funding is inadequate. Between 2012 and 2022, the budgets allocated to primary school textbooks fell by 40%. Today, the average amount per pupil per year is 13 euros. But what is an effective manual? "A textbook that helps students succeed," says Rue de Grenelle.


The Minister of Education wants content whose effectiveness "has been proven by science and practice". Teachers, on the other hand, invoke their pedagogical freedom.


Gabriel Attal is going to "label" school textbooks. In October, the Minister of Education had put forward the idea, before confirming it in November as part of his fight for the "clash of knowledge". Politically, for him, it was a question of conveying a message of authority: the takeover by the rue de Grenelle of scattered pedagogical practices. This calls into question the famous "pedagogical freedom" of teachers, which the unions cherish so much.

Ahead of his official announcements to the press on December 5, Gabriel Attal, in an email addressed to teachers, specified his project. "Primary school textbooks whose content has been proven to be effective by science and practice will now benefit from a label," writes the minister, who cites the Japanese and Portuguese models as examples, with modalities that "integrate the participation of teachers in the field," he is careful to add so as not to put too much pressure on the teaching community. It was a wasted effort. "The free choice of textbooks by teachers was only called into question under Vichy," grumbles one trade unionist. In fact, it is the teachers who, per school, generally decide on a textbook, from among the plethora of offers offered by the publishers.

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"In Portugal, the labelling mechanism stipulates that new curricula must be communicated two or three years in advance to take the time to develop them, in conjunction with teachers," explains Valérie Barthez, director of the association Les éditeurs scolaires, which brings together 27 publishing houses. Ifwe were to adopt a similar mechanism in France, we would have to be aware of the new school curricula at least one year before." The latest experience shows that in France, change is happening precipitately. The publishers became aware of the reform of the high school curriculum in January 2019, which will come into force in September of the same year. Gabriel Attal is also in a hurry as he plans to review the primary school curriculum for the start of the 2024 school year... In particular, this revision must adopt the "Singapore method" in mathematics.

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It all depends on what you put behind the term "labelling", continues Valérie Barthez. Of course, we are not opposed to an upstream review, but the system is already very virtuous. In a world where competition is high, publishers offer textbooks that comply with the recommendations of the Ministry of Education. Today, in reading, there is no longer a single textbook based on the global method."

Substantial budget line

While the publishers fear "an additional layer of complexity", they also explain that equipping schools with textbooks is not their responsibility. It is the responsibility of the town halls. And funding is inadequate. Between 2012 and 2022, the budgets allocated to primary school textbooks fell by 40%. Today, the average amount per pupil per year is 13 euros. In classrooms, it is therefore often old textbooks, not necessarily in line with the progress of research, that are put in the hands of schoolchildren.

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Textbooks play a key role. However, 60% of pupils do not benefit from it in first grade," explains Gabriel Attal. The minister predicts that in the future, it will be the State that will "finance textbooks in reading and mathematics for CP and CE1 students". A substantial budget line has also been set aside. Purchases will be launched for the start of the 2024 school year.

But what is an effective manual? "A textbook that helps students succeed," says Rue de Grenelle. This is to forget the pedagogical quarrels over learning methods. In 2017, Jean-Michel Blanquer said that "not all reading textbooks are created equal". Gabriel Attal's predecessor intended to establish the syllabic reading method. In 2019, the Scientific Council of National Education (CSEN) published an analysis of the thirty-five textbooks in circulation in schools and gave its recommendations for a "100% syllabic approach", making it possible to decipher everything in four months. Alas, in 2022, this same scientific council noted that "effective methods and textbooks continue to be among the least used" by teachers.

But the manual isn't everything. Very often, the teacher builds his or her own teaching materials, which include numerous photocopies and content found on the internet. Labelling cannot, therefore, solve everything. "Does the minister want to impose a compulsory textbook? asks Guislaine David, at Snuipp, the leading primary school union. It would be depriving teachers of their pedagogical freedom," she warns.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-12-05

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