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Numéro 75 Juin 1997

L’école dans la ville

Sylvain Broccolichi, Agnès van Zanten
Secondary schools in competition. Educational networks in a Parisian suburb

Despite their reduced leeway due to demographic pressures and regulation, secondary schools have been engaged in discrete competition to attract the
good students and avoid the bad ones.
With the recent flight of the best students from the inner suburbs to geographically accessible public and private secondary schools inside Paris, the
« problem » students are increasingly concentrated in the suburbs, condemned to move from one establishment to another according to the various schools’projects. The differences in level and achievement between these schools depends more than ever on whether or not local families develop strategies to preserve their social status.

Jean-Paul Payet
« Dirty work ». The moral division of labour in a suburban secondary school

In « problem schools », the gap between
the noble purpose of qualifying students
and the « dirty work » of dealing
with deviances is widening. The new
educational advisors in charge of social
follow-up for problem students are
more often than not indirect witnesses
of incidents who settle matters thanks
to their knowledge of the social environment
around schools. And while a
teacher ignorant of the context is likely
to have too little regard for students’private
lives, getting overly
involved in local affairs could make
things even worse.

Patrick Bouveau
Schools in Educational Priority Areas (ZEP)

Reduced social inequality in French
schools over the past twenty years has
given rise to a series of localized experiments
in positive discrimination that
include hiring better teachers, offering
remedial courses, social workers and
so on. The heterogeneous nature of the
sites chosen at the beginning of the’80s
is the result of the priority given to
fighting failure at school. Ten years
later, public policy emphasis on the
phenomena of violence and uncivil
behaviour are likely to change the role
of schools.

Éric Debarbieux
Violence in schools used as an example

For several years, the media in France
specialized in political commentary
have been sending out an image of
ever-increasing violence in and around
schools. Yet a close analysis of misdemeanours
shows that, with the
exception of a few spectacular
examples, violence is mostly contained
within the confines of the schools.
It is more a matter of uncivil behaviour
suddenly disrupting communication
than of hard-core or brutal
crime. The schools take action to patch
up the rips in the social fabric and
strive to resist the manifestations of
hate that affect it.

Anne Barrère, Danilo Martucelli
Schools in front of ethnicity

The French school system today no
longer possesses the independence
from other institutions -such as the
family, the Church and local bodieswith
which the Republic originally
invested it. In the current context of
increasing competition due to the
growth of schools, ethnicity is used as
a reference by both adults and children
to justify the problems encountered in
certain suburban secondary schools.
Such problems are most often of an
academic nature, and an analysis of the
various models for success available
to young people of foreign extraction
shows that only an extremely small
minority among them is actually in
danger of being excluded.

Catherine Rhein
Geographical anamorphosis. Social polarisation and the flood of students in the Paris metropolitan area

Due to a decrease in size and number
of working-class households in the
greater Paris area, which is linked to
the reassembling of immigrant workers’families
in metropolitan France,
more than half of the school-age children
(5-19 years old) of working-class
parents are of foreign extraction. Between
1975 and 1990, the increase in
the number of young people of foreign
extraction, particularly from North
Africa, was mainly located in the older
working-class towns in the northern
and southern suburbs. Nevertheless,
by preserving the egalitarian national
education program, the teaching profession
has been able to maintain the
same scholastic programme for all,
contrary to what is happening in the
United States.

Catherine Barthon
The children of immigrant workers faced with social and academic division

The case of Asnières-sur-

Asnières, a town in the northern Paris
urban area that has traditionally been
welcoming towards waves of immigrants,
is clearly divided between its
middle- and working-class neighbourhoods.
Social and ethnic segregation is
intensified by a peculiar division of
school districts. Owing in particular to
transfers to the most prestigious local
school through special dispensations,
the number of students from well-off
families is decreasing in areas with a
greater proportion of children of North
African extraction. However, as the
prestigious school is next to a housing
estate recently qualified as « a sensitive
area », it has also lost a number of its
pupils to private schools.

Sylvie Mazzella
Belsunce. Moslem students safe from Catholic schools

In the old, central neighbourhood of Belsunce
in Marseilles, families of shopkeepers
of Algerian, Moroccan and
Tunisian extraction have opted for private
schools guaranteeing their children
the moral education and academic follow-
up that public schools don’t provide,
despite the fact that the local
schools are equipped with exceptional
pedagogical facilities. The parents are
striving to get rid of the neighbourhood’s
negative image through their choice
of schools.

Dominique Mathieu
America’s academic market

In the United States in the 1960’s,
important measures to fight social
inequality in schools helped to reduce
racial discrimination between blacks
and whites. Since then, the liberalization
of the economy in the’70s has made
competition between public and private
schools keener. Increasingly, the social
diversity of schools is a reflection of
highly conflicting lifestyles. Recent
attempts to reduce the accumulation of
disparites have run into the multiple
brick walls of an urban mosaic.

Joëlle Bordet
Social education methods in Chelyabinsk’s neighbourhoods.

In Chelyabinsk, an industrial city on the
Kazakstan border, schools have been
following the city’s lead in opening up
to the free-market world since the collapse
of the Soviet system. Their role as
vocational trainer is in the process of
supplanting their former purpose of
ideological supervision. Despite the
catastrophic situation of public finances,
teachers, parents and local officials are
using schools as a base for civic initiatives
concerning issues such as employment,
health care and leisure activities.
Increasing unemployment and social
precariousness are the main obstacles
they face.

Nadir Zago
A school in the heart of a favela in Florianópolis

The negative social image that hangs
over the « favela » in Florianópolis, a
city in southern Brazil, is putting a damper
on the local school’s integrative initiatives.
Deserted by the poorest inhabitants,
the school is seen by some as a
springboard for social mobility and as a
scapegoat for local precariousness by
others. Negative opinions about the
school arise more from the varying
social integration of nearby families than
from any general resentment against
inaccessible culture and improbable

Jacky Simonin, Michel Watin, Eliane Wolff
Schooling and urban dynamics in Réunion Island

In Réunion Island, where schooling is a
recent and massive phenomenon, the
architecture of successive school buildings
has been getting closer to traditional
forms of housing. Local intercultural
relations are beginning to take
precedence over large, anonymous
structures. But due to educational requirements,
whenever uncontrolled tensions
in the city encroach the slightest bit
on the school system it imposes limits
regarding these new developments.

Géraldine Geoffroy
Lycée Robert-Doisneau in Vaulx-en-Velin

As soon as it opened its doors in the
heart of a large social housing complex,
the new secondary school in Vaulx-en-
Velin was in search of a name symbolizing
humanist values. It eventually decided
on Robert Doisneau, a popular
photographer who passed away recently.
This urban area facility is the result of a
long-standing local request that was suddenly
clarified and satisfied due to
media coverage of the « urban riots » in
1990. Teachers and students in this
brand new public establishment are standing
up for themselves against any and
all attempts at its being stigmatized as a
ghetto school.

J.-P. Payet, M. Amzert, G. Bentayou, F. Duchêne, G. Geoffroy
An ingeneers’ school in the suburbs

The École nationale des travaux publics
(National Public Works College), an
extremely sociable place for its students,
is located in the working-class
suburb of Lyons that has the largest
immigrant population. This prestigious
and well-equipped establishment might
well look like an island of unashamed
wealth to the inhabitants. Despite measures
taken to protect itself from the
supposedly hostile environment, the
Ecole was able to develop a certain relationship
with the inhabitants of the
neighbouring housing estates through
helping children with learning difficulties,
sharing athletic facilities, etc. Relations
with the municipality were formalized
later on through issues of
technical cooperation in the area of
urban planning.

Christian Nicourt, Jean Max Girault
Schoolchildren in polluted cities

Traffic accidents, atmospheric pollution
and inflammable buildings attest to the
fact that the life of a schoolchild is not
without its dangers. Exposure to high
levels of noise that make students lose
their concentration and put a strain on
teachers is a function of the quality of
the environment, which is unevenly
divided between urban areas. In a school
environment in which students are
already at a disadvantage, too much
noise tips the scales even further against
their chances of success.