Since I was no longer a teacher, my middle schoolers were allowed to add me on Facebook. I’m honestly surprised they hadn’t tried earlier. Turns out they forgot my last name. They were totally convinced my name was Erinne Erinne. Totally, small ones.
Now, something I noticed the past couple weeks flying around my Facebook, aside from collège drama, was studying and stressing over the Brevet test.
I had also heard from the kid I tutored while in France. He had a big presentation that would go towards his overall score for his BAC test the following year.
For most american/canadian/english/french learners, we have a rough knowledge/understanding of the BAC test. For many people I just equate it to a high school exit exam plus the SAT. But with a lot more importance. It does measure the quality of education attained by the student, but they can also determine different schools students could qualify to go to. Think of it as a placement test as well.
The BAC was created by the first Napoleon (Yes there was more than one) as the official diploma to enter universities. It was created to test all subjects taken by a student, and cannot be taken and graded for just one subject (except for some foreign languages.)
But over time, things got weird. Really weird. The BAC started shifting and evolving into something new.. actually three somethings. There became 3 types of BACs: L, S, and ES. Starting the first or second year in high school, students must choose a direction for their future classes, future university major, future job.. 16-17 year olds have to choose their future… Sounds scary to me.
Here’s how those letters break down:
L- Litteraire= Literature. Includes, languages, history, philosophy, literature, geography
S- Scientifique= Scientific. Includes, Biology, chemistry, math, physics
ES- Sciences économiques et sociales= Economics and social sciences. Includes, Economics, math, some french and foreign language, History, sociology
When it comes to general entry to universities, frenchies and anyone else will need a BAC score of passing to enter. Unless you want to go to their ‘Ivy League’ schools. Then you’ll need to take some more tests and be stellar.
Now to my surprise, I hadn’t really heard of the Brevet test. This test awards 3eme/9th graders a diploma if they receive a passing score. At the end of the year they are tested on 6 core subjects, and the final at the end of the year is three papers: French,
math, and history/geography. It is very similar to the BAC, in that, they are tested on their education for the past 4 years. It is a very holistic test. It often helps students, parents and counseling faculty to determine the route the student will take with their future; whether they’re an L, S, or ES.
Now, from what I gather, if you fail the Brevet, it does not prohibit you from moving up to high school. Nothing seems to keep students from moving/progressing in school, as grades don’t mean much, when there are two giant tests waiting for them at the end of their college and lycée career.
Which leads me to wonder how much teachers are teaching to the test.
Teaching to the test=
This is an on going issue in the US, and it seems the rest of the world. We, of course, need standards to measure progress or effectiveness of our teaching. However, I think tests are not the most effective way of measuring those things. I’m a stubborn die hard researcher and will always value interviews over surveys, participant-observation over bubble sheets; things may take longer to compute, but the results are much rounder and fuller.
Teaching to a test takes away from creative learning and teaching. People are worrying more about test scores than being well rounded life-long learners. Now, test scores are extremely important! They can increase funding and aid to schools and districts, they can help you get into uni, they can also tell teachers where their students may be struggling.
But this leads way for those ‘good testers’ to excel and students like myself and my sister who don’t test well to fail. My sister and I depended on homework scores in our math classes to cushion our grades. We write and research our hearts out. We pray tests will be short answer or essay because there we can fully express our thought process.. fill in the blank or math tests (in general) are difficult for us. Of course we show our work on math tests, if it’s allowed. However, with standardized tests they look at the cold hard numbers. The questions asked for one correct answer, you got it wrong, you may have the work to show your thoughts and can easily find where you hiccuped. Doesn’t matter the answer is C, or D, or A, or B. No partial credit.
Again, those good testers can excel. We all know (or may be) that one person who can cram the night before and Ace an exam. It’s quite a skill to have, but does it mean the information cram can be applied and utilized to the fullest? Maybe? Not necessarily?
I don’t know. I can only hope our education system will get some much needed financial support and our everyday heroes (teachers) get some much needed love and support.
Finally, felicitation to my 3emes who receiving passing scores on the Brevet this week. Good luck to you and your impending choices for your future!