Teachers 'upgraded'

May 9, 1997

MORE THAN 10,000 teachers with secondary school qualifications are working full-time in higher education, the French education ministry has disclosed.

A survey published by the ministry's assessment office, la Direction de l'Evaluation et de la Prospective (DEP) states that many of the teachers in this category in France's higher education system are in university-based teacher-training and technology institutes. Of the 3,300 teaching mainstream university courses alongside France's 48,000 academics, two-thirds have the prestigious Agregation diploma and more than half teach arts subjects.

Although most universities have only a low percentage of secondary teachers, the survey says three universities in France each have between 200 and 300 staff members transferred from secondary schools. The identities of the universities are not being disclosed.

A transfer from schools to stop the gaps in overcrowded universities is particularly attractive to the education ministry, as these staff teach twice the number of hours of a lecturer for lower pay.

This practice has led to criticism, both from those who fear it will "secondarise" undergraduate courses and from the teachers themselves, some of whom have set up a collective which calls for the same pay and conditions as lecturers.

"Some come with real illusions," commented Dominique Lassarre, national secretary of the teachers' union FEN. "They think it will be quiet, with no unruly pupils and interesting teaching. Then they get huge first-year classes, an enormous amount of marking and lose the right to bonuses and overtime."

Many also say they resent the low status which they are generally given in academia.

"Their situation varies hugely. They are not at all accepted in science departments where there is a belief that only those with a doctorate can teach, but they fit in better in arts subjects," Mrs Lassarre said. "In my department, psychology at Rheims university, we have a secondary teacher for the mathematics course, which is far better than having a temporary teacher."

The DEP survey reveals that the most common route into a university transfer is through teaching undergraduate classes for a few hours as overtime, on top of a full school load, for up to five years before being offered a post.

A transfer then means a full-time teaching load with little opportunity to carry out research or work on a thesis which could lead to a lectureship.

The survey carries the results of a series of more than 400 face-to-face interviews with these teachers.

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