The level of French students in mathematics is constantly falling and the recruitment of teachers in this discipline is becoming more and more difficult. A Senate report considers it essential to strengthen the attractiveness of the teaching profession.
A report on the attractiveness of the profession of mathematics teacher published in June 2021 gives an alarming state of play in the teaching of this subject in France. In particular, the document puts forward avenues for upgrading the teaching profession.
Continuous drop in level
The performance of French students deteriorated in all disciplines, particularly in mathematics. In 2019, the report reveals worrying data:
- only 46% of pupils at the start of CE1 had a satisfactory level in problem solving;
- nearly six out of ten pupils in CM2 had an insufficient level in mathematics;
- one in four was struggling in this subject in 6th grade.
Students lost the equivalent of a school year in mathematics between 1987 and 2017.
According to the international TIMSS study(new window), the science skills of CM1 students are well below the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average(new window)and the European average. In France, only 2% of students reach the advanced level in mathematics, against 11% in the OECD and up to 50% in Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.
A more complex recruitment of teachers
The teaching profession has become less attractive , especially in science subjects. The coverage rate (that is to say the ratio of the number of admissions to the number of posts) in competitions for mathematics teachers was around 100% until 2010 and then fell to:
- 58.6% to the certificate of aptitude for the teaching staff of external secondary education (Capes) in 2014;
- 65.1% to the external aggregation in 2016.
Since then, rates have been rising slowly.
Many positions remain unfilled at the end of the competitive examinations for lack of candidates. Of the 1,165 open positions at the External Capes in 2020, 12% were not filled. In the same year, more than half of the candidates present for all the Outer Capes tests were admitted. The juries underline the low level of the candidates and sometimes lower the eligibility threshold.
The insufficient number of applicants can be explained by a shortage of mathematics students. In addition, they have a lower level than those who move towards health studies, preparatory classes or engineering schools.
National education uses mathematics teachers with contractual status : their share increased from 2.8% in 2011 to more than 9% in 2017 and has been declining since. However, this recruitment does not guarantee the homogeneity of the level of teachers.
Promote the profession
The report therefore recommends upgrading the remuneration of teachers, especially at the start of their careers. It is much lower than the European average and private sector wages. German teachers are paid twice as much at the start of their careers and Spanish teachers almost a third more than French teachers;
According to the report, the aim is also to strengthen the initial training of school teachers and the in-service training of secondary teachers. The mathematics plan, implemented from 2019 to 2023 on the basis of a report,(new window)aims to transform teaching methods and remedy the shortcomings of continuing education. Most of its measures are successful. The deployment of the plan must be accompanied by adequate financial means by putting an end to the recurrent under-consumption of credits dedicated to the continuing training of teachers.