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The “Common Core of Knowledge and Skills” (Socle commun de connaissances et de compétences et de culture) (Decree no.2015-372 of 31 March 2015) represents everything that children between 6 and 16 y/o must know and have mastered by the end of compulsory schooling. It includes all knowledge, skills and values required for a pupil’s success at school, in their personal lives and as citizens. At primary and lower secondary school, all subjects taught have a role to play in acquisition of the common core, including artistic, cultural and sports activities.
A new common core of knowledge, skills and culture was introduced at the start of the 2016/2017 school year. It is organised around 5 domains:
- languages for thinking and communicating;
- methods and ways of learning;
- forming the person and the citizen;
- natural systems and technical systems;
- representations of the world and human activity.
The new common core reinforces and reasserts the need to master certain “basic” areas of knowledge (languages, mathematics, etc.) and also strengthens various skills connected with innovation, such as use of digital technology in Domain 2 “Methods and ways of learning”. Apart from the programmes themselves, innovation also concerns teaching practices and methods. The right to try out new teaching methods was instigated by the Ministry of National Education in 2005. Within schools, teachers may draw support from the “Research, Development, Innovation and Experimentation Department” (DRDIE – Département recherche-développement innovation et expérimentation). The department’s role is to foster innovation and carry out research in the field of education.
Resources and tools are made available to teachers so that they can try out innovative approaches, such as the “experiment library” (“éxpérithèque”), which lists all innovative and experimental projects implemented in schools. 5000 projects are listed in it. Some of them may be rewarded during Innovation Days in which innovative educational actions implemented in the context of calls for projects are rewarded and receive “Innovation Prizes”. Teachers can also receive further training during ”Innovation Days”, which organise professional training modules for participants as well as conferences bringing together researchers, education professionals and school partners.
The Ministry of National Education has set up a programme of “educational actions” (actions actions éducatives), defined as actions “in continuity of and complementary to educational action in the classroom, [promoting] collective and individual initiatives, [encouraging] crosscutting approaches and [contributing] to the development of partnerships”. Educational actions under the Circular bearing on the 2016/2017 Programme of Educational Actions in the Bulletin Officiel of 22 September 2016 are very much at the crossroads of formal, informal and non-formal education.
The educational action offer is organised into nine themes:
- Scientific, technical, industrial and entrepreneurial culture;
- Education in citizenship;
- Artistic and cultural education;
- Education in the environment and sustainable development;
- Media and information literacy;
- Language, literature and philosophy;
- History and memory;
- Sport, healthcare, safety and responsibility ;
- Research, innovation, experimentation, use of digital technology.
Implementation of such actions may rely on members of the Ministry of National Education’s “Citizen Reserve” (Réserve citoyenne), which is made up of bénévoles. They are carried out through organisation of competitions, multi-partner events such as the “French young mathematicians tournament (TFJM^2, Tournoi français des jeunes mathématiciennes et mathématiciens )". the “Fête de la Science” (Science Festival) or the “Cosmos à l'École” (Cosmos at School) project,” the result of a partnership between the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS – Centre national de recherche scientifique), the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (EONR) and French teachers.