Is the French school system more unequal than elsewhere in the OECD?

Just re-elected, Emmanuel Macron sees his balance sheet, and what he plans to do on his second five-year term, criticized. On France Inter, François-Xavier Bellamy, MEP Les Républicains pointed the finger at education, blaming the policy led by the president. “We have the most unequal school system of any OECD country, our students came in last in mathematics in the whole of the European Union,” he said.

The opposition has entered the campaign for the legislative elections, and the right is trying to find a place for itself. But is this statement true? Some netizens have doubts. 20 minutes make the point.


François-Xavier Bellamy says rather true. If France does not have the most unequal school system in the OECD, it is still one of the bad students. Every three years, a study is conducted to assess the knowledge of 15-year-old students in the OECD and to determine what they can do with their knowledge. It’s called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

“As already observed in previous editions of PISA, France is one of the OECD countries where the link between socio-economic status and performance in PISA is the strongest”, concludes the latest published study from the 2018 assessments. The graph showing the socio-economic gap in reading comprehension indicates that France is among the worst. The study indicates that pupils from privileged socio-economic backgrounds obtained results 107 points higher than those of disadvantaged pupils. While the average gap in the OECD is 89 points. Only Israel and Luxembourg have a higher gap than France.

France is also above the OECD average in terms of the isolation index for pupils in difficulty. This is also the case for the difference between advantaged and disadvantaged establishments in the staff shortage index as well as in equipment shortages. However, this inequality in the school system is not new. The trend is the same for older studies, and the gap is gradually decreasing.

Bottom of the class in math?

This same study states: “Students in France obtained results slightly above the OECD average in mathematics and science”. The French have an average score of 495 points, for an average of 489 points.

As for the European Union, mentioned by François-Xavier Bellamy, reference should be made to the international assessment of CM1 students in mathematics and science (TIMSS). And there, France is not as good a student. The latest dated 2019 explains: “Compared to the TIMSS 2015 assessment, the performance of French students shows great stability. With a score of 485 points in mathematics, France is below the European average (527). When the study was published, the president of the IEA, Thierry Rocher, explained: “This drop in results is an underlying and long-term trend. And to add: “Our school teachers have a lower degree of self-confidence in tackling math than those in the European Union. »

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