French abandon careers for teaching

June 18, 2004

France's disillusioned middle-aged professionals are giving up their careers with private companies to retrain as schoolteachers in a welcome boost for higher education institutions.

Lyon's teacher-training institute, Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maitres (IUFM), has reported an "explosion of interest", while an inquiry by Le Monde newspaper found that rising numbers of engineers, managers and qualified or skilled unemployed were hoping to "leave a world of competition and productivity for the values and job security of state education". Most of them are women.

Last year, it was revealed that nearly 15 per cent of applicants who qualified to take the competitive exam for the post of primary teacher, and 5 per cent admitted to equivalent secondary exams, had already worked some years in the private sector.

There is no age limit for candidates who want to take the exams leading to a teaching qualification, but the system is geared to young graduates with a three-year licence (bachelors equivalent) or similar diploma.

Older individuals generally have had to follow courses provided by the national distance learning centre, the CNED.

But last September, Lyon IUFM launched France's first teacher-training course for people working outside education.

Having originally planned an intake of 15 trainees, the institute raised the number of places to 69 after receiving 180 applications without advertising.

For the year starting in September, Lyon IUFM has enrolled 132 women and 34 men for the three-module programme. Their ages range from 24 to 50 and average 36.

Dominique Sénore of the IUFM told The Times Higher : "We knew there was some demand, but we were surprised by the explosion of interest."

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