Has The ‘bac’ Met Its Waterloo?

The baccalaureate, an exam that marks the end of 12 years of schooling for French students, is set to reveal results to over 615,000 individuals on Friday. The exam was created by Napoleon in 1808 and was at first only available to 31 students in its first year, however, it has since been given to the masses and sixty-four percent of all 18-year-olds have a "bac" in the pocket, the highest proportion to date. The French education secretary, Xavier Darcos, even went so far as to say that the baccalaureate was "one of the bedrocks on which the [French] republic is based" when he wished good luck to the current year’s nervous "bacheliers." The baccalaureate is viewed by many in Britain as a possible model to follow as they believe that pupils’ opportunities for life after school are limited by the specialization of A-levels. In France, on the other hand, many people describe it as archaic. The politicians are pushing for reform and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has announced a reform of the baccalaureate when he introduces the wide-ranging changes to upper-secondary schools by 2012. It remains as yet unclear just what changes will be made, however, the country’s education secretary has said that he would like to create a more open system in which pupils have more freedom to pick and choose from different subjects.

However, the current administration seems to have no intention of getting rid of this quintessentially French establishment. Darcos has made it clear that this is not even up for discussion. Hence, despite the challenges that lay ahead, it seems Napoleon’s legacy has a long way to go before facing total defeat.


  • adamlewis

    Adam Lewis is a 34-year-old school teacher and blogger who focuses on education. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Florida. Lewis has been teaching since 2004 and has taught in both public and private schools. He is currently a teacher at a private Christian school in Florida.