The French education system as the expression of a political culture

Philippe d’Iribarne (with Alain d’Iribarne), Vocational Training, European journal, n°17, May-August 1999 (translated in French, German and Spanish). For those not familiar with it, the French education system may seem rather strange. One of the most puzzling aspects is the unique role that the ‘Grandes écoles’ play within this system. The issues being discussed by those who are studying this system in France are also rather surprising. Studies looking at the viability of education and ‘human capital’ are far from occupying a key place. Considerable attention is being paid, however, to the relationships between the ‘levels’ at which people leave the education system and the ‘levels’ at which they enter the production system. The French education system does not just prepare people to be efficient producers, but also directly defines the position that they will occupy in society, through the symbolic properties of the education that they have received. The question of access to what might be termed the ‘educational nobility’ is in itself a major issue for the actors, even when this is far from going together with improved economic efficiency.

You can also be interested in reading :

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, a Social Critique of the Judgement of taste, Routledge, 1984.

Alain d’Iribarne, La compétitivité, défi social, enjeu éducatif, Paris, presses du CNRS, 1989.

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