For a long time, the French education system has been characterized by strong institutional disconnection between secondary education (enseignement secondaire) and higher education (enseignement supérieur). This situation has nevertheless started to change over the last 20 years as the “need-to-adapt” argument has been widely used to push for three sets of interrelated reforms with the official aim of improving student flows to, and readiness for, higher education (HE). The first reforms relate to the end-of-upper-secondary-school baccalauréat qualification and were carried out in two waves. The second set of reforms concerns educational guidance for transition from upper secondary school to HE, including widening participation policies targeting socially disadvantaged youths. Finally, the third set has established a national digital platform, launched in 2009, to manage and regulate HE applications and admissions. These reforms with strong neoliberal leanings have nevertheless been implemented within a system that remains profoundly conservative. Changes to the baccalauréat, to educational guidance, and to the HE admissions system have made only minor alterations to the conservative system of hierarchical tracks, both at the level of the lycée (upper secondary school) and in HE, thus strongly weakening their potential effects. Moreover, the reforms themselves combine neoliberal discourse and decisions with other perspectives and approaches aiming to preserve and even reinforce this conservative structure. This discrepancy is evident in the conflicting aims ascribed both to guidance and to the new online application and admissions platform, expected, on the one hand, to raise students’ ambitions and give them greater latitude to satisfy their wishes but also, on the other hand, to help them make “rational” choices in light of both their educational abilities and trajectories and their existing HE provision and job prospects. This mixed ideological and structural landscape is also the result of a significant gap in France between policy intentions and implementation at a local level, especially in schools. Several factors are responsible for this discrepancy: the fact that in order to ward off criticism and protest, reforms are often couched in very abstract terms open to multiple interpretations; the length and complexity of the reform circuit in a centralized educational system; the lack of administrative means through which to oversee implementation; teachers’ capacity to resist reform, both individually and collectively. This half-conservative, half-liberal educational regime is likely to increase inequalities across social and ethnoracial lines for two main reasons. The first is that the potential benefits of “universal” neoliberal policies promising greater choice and opportunity for all—and even of policies directly targeting working-class and ethnic minority students, such as widening participation schemes—are frequently only reaped by students in academic tracks, with a good school record, who are mostly upper- or middle-class and White. The second is that, under the traditional conservative regime, in addition to being the victims of these students’ advantages and strategies, working-class students also continue to be channeled and chartered toward educational tracks and then jobs located at the bottom of the educational and social hierarchy.
Clement Pin and Agnès van Zanten
Michael Shevlin, John Kubiak, Mary-Ann O'Donovan, Marie Devitt, Barbara Ringwood, Des Aston, and Conor McGuckin
People with disabilities have been among the most marginalized groups within society, with consequent limitations imposed on their access to many goods within society, including education, employment, and economic independence. Some progress is evident in the establishment of more inclusive learning environments, yet it is also clear that upon leaving compulsory education or further/higher education, young people with disabilities encounter significant barriers to accessing meaningful employment. Facilitating transitions to employment for people with disabilities should be informed by ambition and a belief in the capacity of these individuals to make a meaningful contribution to society and achieve a level of economic independence. The issues that are pertinent to young people who have a special educational need or a disability and an aspiration to transition to further/higher education require attention. Research and applied practice has demonstrated the utility of an innovative educational and work readiness program for people with an intellectual disability. Such work highlights the facilitating factors that may encourage a more ambitious reimagining of what may be possible for individuals who have been marginalized.
Dalun Zhang, Yi-Fan Li, and Melina Cavazos
Self-determination refers to a set of skills that helps individuals with disabilities control their life and achieve better inclusive outcomes. In special education, self-determination is often conceptualized as an educational outcome, which recognizes the important role that education plays in the development of student self-determination skills. Consequently, a number of educational practices have been developed to teach students with disabilities these essential skills. Some of the practices focus on helping students to acquire and maintain these skills; others focus on developing a conducive environment that allows and encourages individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills. Research has provided empirical evidence to support the need for teaching self-determination skills to students with disabilities. A number of evidence-based practices have been recommended for schools and parents to use in teaching these skills to students with disabilities. Some of the strategies focus on creating conducive environments that provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to apply and exercise self-determination skills; others provide suggestions to families regarding what they can do to promote self-determination. A particular focus is on instructional practices because of the strong link between education and self-determination. Some popular instructional practices include teaching choice-making, self-management instruction, involving students in the transition planning process, and teaching self-determination skills through a self-determination curriculum such as the ChoiceMaker Curriculum, Steps to Self-Determination, Whose Future Is It Anyway?, Next S.T.E.P. Curriculum, Self-Advocacy Strategy, and Self-Determined Learning Model for Instruction (SDMLI).
Social inclusion is a well-meaning concept with something of a chequered history. Its beginnings were in the attempt by France to find a way of dealing with the social dislocation associated with transitioning from an agrarian to an urban society. The view promulgated was that some people were being pushed to the margins and thereby excluded in this process. From these origins the term was picked up and deployed in Europe, the United Kingdom, and other countries seeking to find ways of including people deemed excluded from participation in society as a result of social dislocation. Where the difficulties have arisen with the term is in conceptualizing where the “causation” resides—in individuals and their alleged deficiencies; or in the way societies are organized and structured that produce situations of inequality in the first place, where some people remain on the periphery. Where the former interpretation is adopted, the policy attempts that follow are reparative and designed to try and mend the bonds that bind people to society, and which are seen as having been disrupted. The attempt is to try and help those who are excluded to transgress the exclusionary boundaries holding them back. In the second interpretation, the focus is upon the way in which power is deployed in producing exclusionary social structures. Envisaging how structural impediments operate, as well as doing something about it, has been much more problematic than in the former case. When applied to educational contexts, there have been some major policy initiatives in respect to social inclusion, around the following: (i) school-to-work transition programs that aim to make young people “work ready” and hence obviate their becoming disconnected from the economy—that is to say, through labor market initiatives; (ii) educational re-engagement programs designed to reconnect young people who have prematurely terminated their schooling through having “dropped out,” by putting them back into situations of learning that will lead them to further education or employment; and (iii) area-based interventions or initiatives that target broad-based forms of strategic social assistance (education, housing, health, welfare, employment) to whole neighborhoods and communities to assist them in rectifying protracted historical spatial forms of exclusion. There remain many tensions and controversies as to which approach to social inclusion is the most efficacious way of tackling social exclusion, and major research is still needed to provide a more sociologically informed approach to social inclusion.