In France, students graduating from high school are having a hard time choosing a curriculum.
Years of reforms in higher education and vocational education have gradually split young students in two groups:
- those who want (and can) continue on higher education such as university, BTS, DUT, schools (business, engineering, specialised...),
- and those who choose the professional path, usually on shorter periods. The latter generally wish to enter the labour market quickly.
Who are these young people who do not want or cannot undertake lengthy studies?
School failure / underprivileged communities: are they the only ones concerned?
To think that following short vocational training is only for those who do not wish to study or are struggling at school is an easy shortcut. However, when looking at the details, this statement is only partially true. Vocational students have often already encountered difficulties during their studies. For example, three out of four entrants in CAP and one out of two students in their first year of vocational studies have repeated grades at least once.
According to INSEE, 40% of the second cycle students are in vocational education (apprenticeship or professional training). These students generally have a vocational or technological baccalaureate. According to student figures, after obtaining their Bac Pro, 37% leave school and 13% go on to pre-baccalaureate training (CAP, BEP, complementary mention, state diploma, vocational certificate, technician's certificate or final year of another vocational series).
Most of the time, baccalaureate graduates continue their studies following a predefined path subject to inequalities, since social origin unfortunately remains a determining factor in the educational journey. Indeed, a large majority of students from the most advantaged categories go on to general and technological secondary school (87 per cent) and less than 10 per cent go on to vocational training.
Today, social background and success at school are therefore decisive criteria in the choice of studies and especially for short studies. On the other hand, there are many other reasons why these young people may choose shorter vocational studies: a desire for rapid access to employment, certainty about the profession in question, or the desire to be trained in a professional and less theoretical way.
Which fields of training are available for these young students?
Today, vocational education is divided into eleven fields, five in services and six in the secondary industry.
- three in services ("trade and management", "personal services" and “multidisciplinary services”)
- and three in the secondary industry ("mechanical, electrical, electronic", "processing" and "civil engineering, construction and wood").
There is still a real divide between men and women: almost nine out of ten girls are undergoing training in services.
What are the formats?
CAP: this is the Certificate of Professional Aptitude. It is the first professionalising diploma and the leading diploma for craftsmanship.
BEP: is the Brevet d'Etudes Professionnelles (Vocational Studies Certificate). The BEP is prepared after the third year of secondary school in a vocational or agricultural college. It is integrated into the curriculum of a professional baccalaureate in the same speciality.
FCIL: The Complementary Training of Local Initiative is a fast and unique training: it allows to acquire a more advanced qualification in a sector related to the local or regional market.
BTS: The Brevet de Technicien Supérieur is a national diploma of French higher education. It is normally prepared in two years after obtaining a baccalaureate. It is a level III diploma.
Vocational education: it is an apprenticeship necessary to carry out a professional activity. The aim is to provide the labour market with individuals with up-to-date skills. The field of web development, for example, is a know-how that needs to be constantly updated through innovative training courses such as those offered by the Wild Code School.
These different formats are therefore being promoted in France and are a very relevant path for certain students, but they are still very little valued in certain professional fields, considering them to be less prestigious than general higher education. Indeed, the perception of success in vocational education depends very much on the perception and valuation (or not) by society of the targeted professions.
An education leading straight to employment
Vocational education is increasingly being considered by students and is gaining general recognition. Indeed, since 2009, a real equity in vocational education has been acknowledged. This development makes it possible to open up the possibility for all to pursue vocational education without any particular assignment criteria and contributes more and more to making vocational education a chosen path of excellence towards success and above all towards employment.