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Le Brevet/GCSE's/A levels etc

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I've discussed Le Brevet and GCSE's with French friends, but unless people know both systems it seems impossible to make comparisons.

My understanding is that Le Brevet is done in all subjects and is just classed as one thing. Do they get a certificate for it and does that certificate mean anything? Does it show how well they did in some subjects? Some French people have told me that you have to stay in education after the Brevet at age 15, but that can't be true as another friend's son went to work in a garage to train as a car mechanic. So, if students leave school at 15, will the Brevet have any affect on getting a job? I get the impression that the Brevet is more like the SATs that are done at 14 here - just a record that you have passed that phase of education and are ready for the next.

If my understanding is right, then I'm pleased that we have separate exams in England so that students can do well in the subjects they are good at and then they have something to show for it. If they are weaker in other subjects it doesn't drag the whole thing down.

Also, the Bac seems hard to understand. That seems to be in a wider range of subjects than would be done at A level. My daughter's penfriend failed the French part of it which they do a year before the rest, and I asked if she could re-do that part of it, and was told no, she would just have to hope she did well enough in the other subjects to go to University. She did go to University OK. But with just a Bac, is it possible for universities and employers to compare qualifications to help them decide who they want to join them. I believe there is an entrance exam for uni anyway? In that case, what is the point of the bac.

What is the marking system for the Brevet and the Bac?

Can anyone put me wise on all this?

Jill (99)
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LAST EDITED ON 23-May-04 AT 01:17 AM (BST)

Briefly....Secondary education finishes after the forth year, however, kids have to be at school until they are 16. The brevet, is not worth the paper it is written on. Even the BAC is considered unimportant and kids who want a career in something have to go onto further education after their BAC to become qualified, hence jobs ask for BAC+ and after the plus is indicated the number of years courses that are required. A degree for example would be BAC+3.

The BAC is global. You can't simply pass parts of it and those passes will count for anything, the only thing that they count towards is if the student tries later to get their BAC, so for kids who struggle, they cannot say, well, I passed history and english. In the end it is either all or nothing....... in the 12-13 subjects or more.

Not quite sure about the mechanic, surely he would be at school too during his apprenticeship, too late for me to think that one out.

Compare, well, the systems are so un-alike, that it is hard to compare.

The University system is different too. Law of the jungle with lots of courses. With a BAC just about anyone can put their name down, and then those that don't make the grade are given another year and then kicked out if they can't make it. There are certain courses though where one has to do a years preparation and a sit a concours.

ie medicine, our local University Hospital takes a thousand students each year, of which only 80 can pass. And of those 80 only twenty percent are first year students that haven't resat. The students can take two years then they are out. Incidentally there is going to be a big shortage of doctors in the near future according to my GP. He is also the proud father of a son who got through his first year med school first time, you see some do it.
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It seems to be a very independent system here concerning further education after the BAC. My daughter had to write off to other Lyces asking to be considered for four different courses. The only two establishments that do her chosen career (Tourism) are 1.5hrs away at St.Brieuc and 2hrs at Pont L'Abb. So far we have made a visit to her first choice where there is space for 18 on the next course and she is currently 8th on the waiting list and 44th on one of her other chosen courses. The other two have rejected her. The BAC starts in the next couple of weeks. For three exams lasting just 20mins each, her and four others have got to travel 30miles to another Lyce and be there for 7.45am and one exam in Brest which is 40miles away. There is no help with transport and if you do not show up you lose out. The BAC as TU says is nothing on it's own merits and this is now BEP/BTS time for another two years when she will be nearly 22 with probably more education to come. The Brevet is simply a school certificate stating that you gained a certain number of pass points in several subjects and actually is asked for when you go to Lyce as proof that you have passed. We thought primary school was confusing when we came here but after collge, it gets over your head in rules and regs. We are even having to buy her a car so she can travel as there is no nearby station to one Lyce and no direct route to the other. One advantage for native english speakers is that they can make up their points gained in english if they fall down on other subjects here.
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The brevet is taken as continuous assessment over 4me and 3me (3rd and 4th secondary years) At the end of each years the teacher have to fill in a "fiche brevet" and all the grades are added up and then an average is calculated. (coff 1 for everything)History-Geography isn't included. Don't ask me why and we certainly never tell the pupils. At the end of the 3me, pupils have to sit the written exam in french, maths and history-geography-education civique. The maths and H/G/ED CIV exams are two hours long, French is 3 hours (twice 1.5hrs)these grades are then added to the continous assessment results and a total average is made.

Most French people (particularly older ones) believe that you have to get 10 out of 20 to have the brevet and that it's something to be proud of. In reality, we get official notes telling us to accept kids from 8 or 9 depending on the statistics they are aiming at.

Since the pass rate for the brevet is around 80%-90%,you can't really say that it's an important and telling exam. Jack Lang had wanted to make it a more important exam and that you had to have it before going to Lyce gnral but that has never happened. He also wanted ALL subjects in the written exam and it's supposed to start next year but we still haven't had the texts.

You can take the brevet gnral which means that you don't have continous ass results so you take all the subjects in the written exam.
You don't need the brevet to go any further. You can't leave school before 16, but you can go into things like 3me Insertion, (in collge 3 weeks, with an employer 3 weeks) or CFA (centre de formation des apprentis) which can be either 2 days in a centre and the rest in work or 1 week in the centre and 3 weeks at work.

I know less about the others (sighs of relief from people who have read this far)the BEP (brevet d'etudes professionnelles) is taken after 2 years at a lycee profesionnel. Pupils do 14 hours core subjects, 14 hours professional studies. I think there is cont ass and I know there is an exam at the end (each subject has a different coff) You get just one certificate

For the bac, you do the same core sujects in 2nd, with one option then in 1ere you decide your "filiere" after which you will study most the basic subjects but for different amounts of time per week. (i.e. 1 hour of maths in bac L and 5 for bac S) Most bacs are totally on exams (you take French at the end of 1ere and sometimes other 'unimportant' subjects) but each subject has a different coff.

The bac is the university access exam. If you have a bac then you can register for any university. There is no selection system. Unkind French people will tell you that the selection process is the first university year (there is a very high drop out level)
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  • 2 years later...

Just seen the Brevet results for various collèges in the local paper.  In the lists of names of those who'd passed were some with TB or AB....................is the Brevet graded?   Just wondering, my oldest starts collège in September,  and I'm trying to get to grips with secondary schooling.


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AB, B, and TB are "mentions" or honours the child received.

AB is "with honours", B is "with high honours" and TB is "with highest honours".

The brevet is graded but (as Mistral explained) the final grade is a

summary of all marks received over two years plus the examination.

Pupils who obtain a "B" or "TB" receive special advantages  although I'm not sure what. :) (Mistral?)

Note that marks change value as you change classes. The lower the

class, the higher the "normal" mark. Right now, fewer than 1% of

bac-takers get a general score of 16. The median mark in the Humanities

is around 8 and is around 9-10 in the sciences.  In primary

school, a 16 merely indicates good work (18s and 20s are given to

indicate excellence/superb work for the level.) 8-10 is BAD NEWS. 

In collège,  a 16 is not exceptional but excellent nevertheless.

The bac represents what a "man of letters" is supposed to know;

"culture générale" and "esprit critique". Well, what a teenager with

normal intelligence, diligence, and curiosity; should know, especially

in ways of thinking. Since you can't cut "thinking" into little pieces,

it's all or nothing. But each student can choose a "major", their

"filière", depending on their academic or professional interests.

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[quote user="carla"]        Just seen the Brevet results for various collèges in the local paper.  In the lists of names of those who'd passed were some with TB or AB....................is the Brevet graded?           [/quote]

AB = Assez Bien

B = Bien

TB = Très Bien

And it was quite an embarrasment (in my days 30+years ago) to be in the papers with the mention 'Passable' meaning you just about scrape through....

I don't remember what I got, certainly remember that I had exams written and oral in 2 languages (English & German), French, Latin, written exams in Maths (Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry), History, Geography, Sciences (Biol, Chem, Phys) and ... PE!! best marks at the shotput for the school! My glory! I Hated PE (Note the capital H!)... Had the same kind of panics and tantrums as my 2 had for their GCSE...

I went on to a Lycée Professionel in Clermont-Ferrand (boarding long way from Niort!) as I wanted to do Hotellerie/Restaurant. I wasn't really academical book swot, not thicko of the class either, I think the correct word is under-achiever. basically I wanted to go to work and my parents wanted me to carry on school to Bac, so this was the compromise....  Loved every minute that went by and wish some time machine could take me back to these days...

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The young people who I've been teaching were sitting CAP's, BEP's and BAC-Pro's.  All of them had to sit exams and try to get over 10/20.  However, the coefficient for their practical subjects is 7 to 10, but their academic subjects is 1 or 2.  This means that cooks can just about get through with a little academic work, and great cooking skills , but not the other way round.  Young people who were not near the 10/20 mark just are not entered for the exams, and their parents weren't told until just before the exams, when nothing could be done.  I felt terrible working in that system, so I'm going.

As Mistral (I think) said the CAP lot spend one week in lessons and 3 weeks at work.  For the BEP's and BACPro's it is around 66% in work, but that makes for awful timetable scheduling...

Parents worry about the Brevet.  One of my best friends was concerned that her son was doing really badly.  She had an older daughter who had always done loads of studying at home, son had done next to nothing!  Anyway, I have a very happy friend, her son has done very well.  In some respects the brevet does resemble SATS as it says what the pupil is roughly capable of.  I also think that the standard I have seen in BAC lessons (not BACPro) is about comparable with the AS levels I've taught.  But the systems are so different, but I think the difference doesn't get levelled out until the Masters Degree level.

It just seems so complicated.

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