|French Higher Ed: Higher Participation, Lower Retention and Rewards|
|Topic||Income Distribution and Poverty|
|Key Words||Education, tuition, human capital|
France moved from an elite to a mass system of education in the 1980s. The proportion of school-leavers going on to higher education has since increased from 30 to 58 percent. People who would not have considered a university education previously are now becoming students.
However, the universities are now more crowded, classes larger, teachers often untrained, and equipment obsolete. Moreover, of those going to college, only 80 percent finish their degrees within five years. Degrees in France should take only two years to complete, but only 45 percent of students do so. Many have difficulty transitioning to university. They find that courses are more difficult than anticipated, or fail to work hard, or lack interest in their courses of study, resulting in failure or dropping out, at least temporarily. This can be expensive: the average tuition for a year is $5,000.
Disappointment abounds after graduation. While twenty years ago, a degree would have led to a position in middle management, it now does little more than lead to blue-collar work. Employers see little difference between high school leavers and degree-holders, unless they have a postgraduate degree. Postgraduate education is only available to the brightest, however.
The U.K. Government expects the proportion of school-leavers going to
university to increase from 32 percent to 50 percent by 2010. There is
concern that some of the problems experienced by the French may arise
in the U.K.
(Updated May 6, 2002)
|Source||Adam Sage and Martin Stephen, "French lessons," The Times, January 17, 2002.|
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