France: An Elite System Struggles With Mass Education

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Science  02 Feb 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5249, pp. 686
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5249.686


A fundamental tenet of French education is that universities should be open to all who graduate from secondary school. As a result, the number of university students almost doubled between 1980 and 1995. But the universities themselves have remained elitist, with a rigorous assessment at the end of each year that determines whether a student can progress to the next year. One result has been frustration and a high dropout rate. These problems are compounded by the fact that funding has not kept pace with the growth in student numbers. Now some academics are arguing that it is time to be more selective in admitting students in the first place.