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Inconsistencies of Parcoursup: A French System Adversely Affecting Carbon Footprint and Access to Higher Education





I am a mother of two children, aged 7 and 18. My eldest son (who was diagnosed late as a High Potential hild (HPI) and who already knew how to read when starting first grade) has just obtained his baccalaureate with a “Mention Assez Bien” (Fairly Good). His average for the year was over 15/20. He chose a specialization in English and Computer Science. He had an excellent academic record. What a surprise to see him being rejected by the small university in our own town, which had 80 available places. In the end, only 5 places were reserved for local residents, while the rest were intended for applicants coming from “far away”. This raises concerns about the coherence in terms of organization, transportation, and carbon footprint. On the other hand, my son was accepted into exactly the same program at a large university located 80 kilometers away from us. This would have meant having to pay for an apartment (around 1000 euros per month in that big city…). So, students from the big city travel 80 km to come and study in our small town. And those from the small town are accepted in the big city. It’s a real mess for both parents and students!

When I took my baccalauréat in 1993, we were free to enroll wherever we wanted. For example, even with a literary baccalauréat, you were free to enroll in medicine or pursue a new subject of interest. I studied communication in Paris, but one day I decided to enroll in a theology degree, and I was accepted into the public university without any evaluation of my academic record! The previous system allowed for change, career transitions, and inspiration! It could ignite vocations. In contrast, Parcoursup hinders vocations. Just look at the torture they subject medical students to in their first year, while France is facing a severe shortage of doctors!

The French system is highly criticizable on another point: the value placed on higher education. In France, even with 10 years of university studies, young graduates struggle to find jobs in their specialized fields. In my practice office, I encounter individuals with a Ph.D. in Biology who end up working as high school supervisors or library employees! They are depressed yes but with such a system, who wouldn’t be? Let’s be serious. In the USA, once university fees are paid, you generally get a job in your field of study! Thta’s absolutely not the case in France excepting if you are a nepo baby…

Since its implementation in 2018, Parcoursup, the French system for higher education admission, has sparked numerous controversies. Despite its commendable goals of transparency and streamlining registration procedures, the system exhibits several inconsistencies that have significant implications for both equal access to education and environmental impact.

  1. Stringent Selection and Inequality of Access

One of the primary criticisms levied against Parcoursup pertains to its selective approach. The system favors students with the highest grades and most exceptional academic records, creating an inequality of access to higher education, thereby depriving certain students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds or schools with lower ratings, of the opportunity to enroll in their preferred courses.

  1. Overcrowded Programs and Limited Spaces

Certain university programs, such as medicine, face considerable demand, leading to overcrowding and insufficient availability of places for students aspiring to pursue these fields of study. This situation exacerbates injustice towards students who seek to pursue their studies in such programs but find themselves rejected without viable alternatives.

  1. Disregard for Non-Academic Competencies

Parcoursup primarily relies on academic achievements to assess applicants. However, this approach fails to acknowledge non-academic competencies, including involvement in associations, artistic talents, or professional experiences. Consequently, students with extraordinary talents outside the academic realm may face disadvantages compared to candidates who solely focus on their academic pursuits.

  1. Unfavorable Carbon Footprint

Beyond issues of equity, Parcoursup poses a significant environmental challenge. The system does not consider the carbon footprint resulting from students’ commutes. Many students are compelled to enroll in universities far from their places of residence, sometimes hundreds of kilometers away, due to a lack of available spaces in local institutions.

This situation leads to frequent journeys and contributes to increased CO2 emissions, thereby exacerbating climate change and environmental degradation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Parcoursup exhibits several inconsistencies that draw criticism concerning both equal access to higher education and its environmental impact. The selective nature of the system penalizes students from disadvantaged backgrounds, overcrowded programs limit students’ choices, and the disregard for non-academic competencies diminishes opportunities for certain candidates. Additionally, Parcoursup’s adverse carbon footprint highlights the need to reevaluate the system to promote equity and sustainability. Reforms are imperative to ensure a fairer and environmentally conscious admissions process, fostering a more promising future for education and the planet.

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