BOTH relief and tears will greet the results of France’s school-leavingbaccalauréat exam on July 5th. With breathtaking efficiency, the entire country’s exam papers are corrected and marked within just two weeks. Founded in 1808 by Napoleon, the bac is an entry ticket to university as well as a yearly national ritual, which opens with a gruelling compulsory four-hour philosophy general paper that even scientists have to sit. This year the papers seem particularly revealing of how French youngsters are taught to view the world.
“What do we owe to the state?” was one essay option in the philosophy exam. In the economics and social science paper, pupils were asked to comment on a wealth-distribution table, showing that 10% of French households owned 48% of the country’s wealth, and then told to “demonstrate that social conflict can be a factor behind social cohesion”. We still have the mentality of the class struggle, says Nicolas Lecaussin, of the Institute of Fiscal and Economic Research (IREF), a think-tank, and author of a report on economics textbooks.