Graduates slam elite teaching as 'outdated'

May 7, 1999

Paris

The most recent graduates of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration have written an open letter to French prime minister Lionel Jospin, criticising the prestigious college for its outdated teaching.

ENA, which produces France's top civil servants and many leading politicians, is "a machine to grade rather than to train", said the Cyrano de Bergerac class. Noting that the college "is indispensable for training senior civil servants", the letter said it should not "live on the prestige of its past and mask its mission to train in favour of an imperative to grade. It gives us the impression of working in a vacuum without either vision or a pedagogical scheme".

The letter is the latest in a series of attacks on ENA, but represents the first public complaint by its graduates. It comes as the government finalises an outline plan for reform to be presented to the ENA board of directors in mid-June. Details will be worked out jointly by college and government.

The plan responds to some of the ex-students' complaints, but not all, said Marc Abadi, a top aide to civil service minister Emile Zuccarelli. "We believe our proposals are in line with calls for more public management, negotiation and human resources management training, and competitive entrance exams." The government aims to "diversify the origins" of students and to include European Union law in the exams.

No decision has yet been reached about grading. "It is a very difficult problem," Mr Abadi said. "It is not marvellous, but what should we put in its place? Our reflection is not sufficiently advanced to take a decision."

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