This result may at first be surprising. On the strength of the high number of science CPGE positions 7 and the wider range of choice offered to them in terms of academic research 8 , we may have assumed that these graduates would avoid secondary education teaching to an even greater extent than their former arts peers. Analysis of the interviews will show that orientation towards secondary teaching cannot in fact be reduced to a pure consequence of a saturated job market or a default choice owing to a lack of professional opportunities in other sectors.
It shows that in addition to being in the minority within our sample, a long-term career in secondary education teaching is in decline among students who have graduated most recently. Figure 1. Occupation of former students according to year of graduation.
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The clearest trend here is the fifteen-point increase in students with a career in higher education and research from the first years of graduation studied to the last The natural counterpart to this increased orientation towards doing a PhD and following a career in academia is a relative disaffection with careers in schools and colleges.
This trend is seen especially in those graduating from the second half of the second half of the s. This distinct drop in the proportion of former students teaching in high schools can perhaps also be seen as one of the effects of the clearer reorientation of ENS priorities towards research, which was behind the transfer of the scientific sections to Lyon in Bataille We note at the same time that the proportion of CPGE teachers also diminished during the period, although to a lesser extent.
As a career in secondary education may be considered to be more ordinary, from the point of view of the French population as a whole, than that of an academic or manager of a large multinational, it must thereby be emphasized that this particular choice of occupation is relatively rare within our sample. Having outlined the position that teaching holds within the sphere of normalien careers, we must situate those students who have followed such a professional route vis-a-vis their peers of the same academic year.
Table 2. From the angle of original family configuration type, secondary teachers are equally characterized by a high proportion of former students from underprivileged families. This overrepresentation of students from more modest social backgrounds in teaching careers is a sign of the difficulties involved in converting academic capital into effective professional resources for students who are socially upwardly mobile, as has been highlighted by the case of the most prestigious business schools Lambert But, as we will see, such career choices are also informed by strategies — specific to former students from working-class families — of social ascent via schooling.
They show that the proportion of former PhD students working in secondary education is relatively low. This observation seems to indicate that the process of long-term orientation towards secondary education occurs early on in the journey post-ENS—and that the number of cases of former students who turn to secondary education having completed a thesis and failed to find a position in higher education, which is often highlighted in the media, is in reality minimal. Similarly, those who have been successful in gaining an AND or AMN contract have very often continued along the academic career route and rarely return to teach in secondary education long term.
While this quantitative overview addresses several salient points, it says nothing about the significant variations in how this specific experience is lived and adopted, which is something that emerges in the interviews, as we will now see. We must first of all point out that despite the plurality of experiences, long-term commitment to secondary education is generally presented as an accident in the career paths of our respondents.
We can identify significant variations on this point depending on academic year, with those respondents who began ENS in the first half of the s being the more nuanced. After failing to gain a position as an AMN, he took a position in secondary education at the same time as beginning a thesis.
It was a done deal. But yeah, first job at a technical college… I took it really badly.
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Like an insult. I felt insulted by the institution. Among the various tools available to help understand biographical dynamics, the turning point is unique in that it can only be defined as such a posteriori — and hence it is necessarily an object of reinterpretation for those concerned Bidart, Longo, Mendez In the case of our respondents, even if a long-term bifurcation to secondary education is often presented as a prominent event, the strength of the feeling of relegation associated with it varies greatly depending, for example, on their academic and social background prior to starting at ENS.
Louis grew up in a city in the west of France; his father was a doctor and his mother a housewife with a passion for literature and cinema. Gender plays an equally strong role in retrospective interpretations of long-term engagement in secondary education teaching. For many of our female respondents, their appointment to a teaching position in a school or college often corresponded with the arrival of their first child.
In such situations, the likelihood of re-joining the royal road of the thesis and higher education teaching is drastically reduced owing to the frequently uneven division of domestic care work between partners. She was in a relationship with a young doctor during her last year of education, and the arrival of their first child appears retrospectively to be clearly correlated with her abandoning her thesis. So I applied to do the DEA. And then I stopped there because I had kids [laughs].
A final factor that may contribute to a career in secondary education being associated with relegation is reactions encountered in interactions with colleagues and school management. In general, those we spoke to in teaching positions in schools or colleges say very little about their academic past to their professional entourage. Flaunting this type of accolade with the intention of receiving favourable treatment would first of all contravene the equal treatment guaranteed a priori to all public servants of the same rank. Working hours and salary progression among other things effectively depend on this distinction.
Other respondents, however, state that their discretion regarding the fact that they attended ENS is linked to a fear of their colleagues both teachers and management or members of the administration such as school inspectors in particular not understanding their academic route.
There are two main aspects to the normalien stigma: firstly privilege, in that he or she has had it easy; and secondly being employed in a job for which he or she is overqualified. These aspects turn the bifurcation to secondary education into a form of degradation. Quite the opposite, I was really happy. I really liked being there. Rather, it is the result of a collective construction of meaning to which family and other relations contribute, as we have seen, but colleagues and other actors of the professional environment also play a part.
In this final section, we will focus on different ways in which former students appropriate this rupture in the long term. The three types of career path described below are not specific to ENS students—and could, in our view, be applied to other secondary education teachers. Nevertheless, each resonates in its own way with the particular experience of the respondent. Those who have experienced secondary education as relegation have invested a great deal of effort into trying, as far as possible, to avert this first mis orientation of their career.
Beside poetry, which he had written regularly since his CPGE years, he wrote several books for teenagers and popular philosophy guides. But none of his works allowed him to seriously consider leaving teaching. In the end, Louis made use of the transfer of his — non-teacher — partner to the Paris region to request a new placement on the grounds of proximity to his partner.
This change of region and establishment strongly contributed to giving a fresh impetus to his career. This last remark calls for comment. From this perspective, an arts CPGE teaching position or one at a good Parisian school may indeed appear more desirable than a position as a lecturer at an IUT in the provinces, to take a somewhat extreme example.
Nevertheless, with few exceptions, this type of argument appears to be ex post facto rationalisation when subjected to analysis. Indeed, the initial choices that were made regarding professional orientation were rarely on the grounds of an evaluation of relative pay.
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A second type of career path followed by a smaller contingent of our secondary teacher respondents attests to a strong investment in the field of education or even in trade union activity. This type of career path is generally associated with a claim to being committed to secondary education teaching, and more generally to state education.
After her years at ENS, Martine decided not to pursue a thesis, and was appointed to the position she has today. But since these positions were all located at least a half-hour train journey from where she lived, she never went through with her applications—preferring to maximize the time spent with her son. And I feel useful as a teacher. She is also involved in extracurricular activities, such as the school drama club, and regularly accompanies classes in theatres of the region. This form of political commitment to teaching can from time to time spill far beyond a strictly professional context.
Thus, Alexia had left secondary teaching several years before the interview, benefiting from an early retirement scheme available to mothers of large families. She has thereafter used her free time to get involved in various environmental organisations in her region. But it cannot be only this, since this type of aspiration to a better quality of life seems to us to reveal certain changes under way in the upper intellectual echelons of the middle classes — and especially as far as men as concerned.
But when the results of his thesis were slow to materialize, he increasingly lost interest in research. He thus found himself forced to take a position in secondary education straight after the end of his contracted AND years and starting the academic year in September at a school that had a reputation for being difficult in the suburbs of Paris. They were then appointed to the high school and the secondary school in the small town south of Paris where they were living at the time of the interview.
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Although less prestigious than those of some of their classmates, their career path has allowed them to achieve a certain standard of living buying a house, having a garden, coming home in the evening to look after the children or play the guitar… , which would have been harder for them to achieve had they both pursued a career in academia. His living conditions are appalling… Ok, he earns a good living too. At the end of this article, let us recall the results that we have established. First, thanks to quantitative analysis, we have shown that the distribution of long-term bifurcations towards secondary teaching in the careers of former ENS students within our surveyed population is not random: such bifurcations are primarily seen in the case of women, and students from families who are relatively unprivileged in terms of academic and symbolic capital.
Second, analysis of the interviews shows that while taking up a career in secondary teaching is often presented as a rupture, the rather negative and traumatic connotation of this event is generally rooted in the former social and academic experiences of the respondents. Finally, our results show that analysis of the social construction of class and reputation does not fully equate to an understanding of the effects of these sociosymbolic judgements in those who propound them. These classifications are the object of various appropriations — which are themselves informed by rules governing individual academic and professional career paths.
Our results thus call for these experiences to be systematically viewed within a longer-term, individual biographical context, to understand not only what the achievement of such status symbols does to individuals, but also what they do with them. But this observation also applies to cases in other countries. Here again, the sociology of elite American institutions is a particularly illustrative example. First, the course of study …. A3eps Abbott , Andrew Des Normaliens. Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po. Bataille Pierre Lausanne, UNIL. Seller Inventory MG. More information about this seller Contact this seller 4.
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