The education and training of young people are major recurrent concerns in the eyes of the public authorities and, more generally, French society as a whole, whose expectations in this regard are many and varied, and go beyond the simple issue of education itself.
The French educational model has undergone far-reaching changes enabling it to be characterised by the ongoing spread of mass education since the 1950s, accompanied by a lengthening of the duration of schooling and a form of “democratisation” expressed by access to high levels of qualification on the part of a significant percentage of the population, the less privileged social categories in particular.
However, as a number of reports issued by the Ministry of National Education (Mass education in the Fifth Republic. An appraisal of national education statistics, 1958-2014, La massification scolaire sous la Vème République. Une mise en perspective des statistiques de l’ éducation nationale (1958-2014) –) as well as international assessments (PISA 2015, PISA 2018) show, there are still major inequalities in learning outcomes and social and academic trajectories between schoolchildren and students, as academic success is very much conditioned by families’ socioeconomic levels. According to the PISA studies, although success rates among French schoolchildren are within the average, France is one of the OECD countries where academic inequalities between schoolchildren are the most significant. Reduction of inequalities and success for all, schoolchildren and students alike, has become one of the most crucial challenges for the public authorities.
In addition, although “Lifelong Learning” is included in the Labour Code (Art.L.6111-1 of the Law of 24 November 2009 bearing on orientation and professional lifelong learning), there are still major inequalities in access to training depending on age and activity sector. According to INSEE’s 2012 survey on the training of adults, access to training decreases with age: six out of every ten individuals between 25 and 34 y/o have taken part in at least one training course, while between 55 and 64 y/o this is only the case with one in every three individuals. Development of lifelong learning and its accessibility are also challenges for the public authorities.