What is a democratic school? Historical perspectives in France during the 20th and 21th(1900-2014)
Authors: Bruno Garnier
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The democratic school can hardly be defined without the help of history, but without forgetting that the political philosophy of the Enlightenment never got involved in the mentioned task. In France, the 19th century until the 1880s is marked by the construction of a school socially segregated, with two types of education separated into different institutions for children of the working classes and the middle classes. Therefore, it is appropriate to initiate the historical perspective in the late 19th century. The political work of Jules Ferry prompted a strong criticism of the injustice of the school of the Republic, in the early 20th century, and especially between the two world wars, which affected the determination to build a democratic school. Slowly, equality in educational provision for children from all backgrounds supports the idea of equality of individual opportunities in order to thrive in society thanks to the talent and personal skills. This idea gets partial achievements, under the ministry of Jean Zay between 1936 and 1939, and develops with the Langevin-Wallon plan, after the end of the Second World War, with the development a meticulous planning of a great programmatic coherence. However, structural reforms between 1959 and 1985, which unified the French educational system as we know it today, did not get impregnated of the democratic schools imagined in the previous period. Instead of a progressive and individualised orientation, the unique school of René Haby is a common undifferentiated core where children from all backgrounds are subject to teachings oriented only to the admission to compulsory education. The latest international evaluations show that France is a country where social determinism plays an important role in the education and professional training of young people. Nonetheless, although the equalisation of opportunities turned out to be a lie defeated by the meritocratic selection, it is noteworthy that the social bond is threatened since the democratic school should not only compare the performance of students between them but also create the feeling of belonging to an inclusive society for all.