Baccalaureate 2019, the unexpected burst of continuous control


The strike by retention of notes by teachers dissatisfied with the “Blanquer reform” has come to rest, unexpectedly, the question of the interest of a continuous control in the context of an examination such as the baccalaureate .

Beyond the controversy aroused by the “technical solution” invented by the minister to solve the problem he had to face, one can seize the opportunity of this surprise irruption to try to calmly examine this question.

Minister’s skillful parade

Pressed by the events, the Minister had to resolve to take into account “temporarily” the continuous control (average of the notes obtained in the discipline during the three quarters of the year), when the terminal note was missing as a result of the strike . This has given continuous control (CC) an unexpected opportunity to have its utility recognized.

The minister’s parade is clever. She takes the opponents on the wrong foot. Because it is to protest against a reform of the baccalaureate which, among others, attributed to the continuous control 40% of the final evaluation, that some teachers have embarked on a strike notes. But the minister neutralizes the effects of their action by resorting to the object of their wrath!

This “technical solution” has the advantage of not being unfavorable to students. In the end, only the best of the two notes will be retained: that of the CC taken provisionally into account; that of the terminal control (CT) finally reached the jury. This device does not deserve then to be perpetuated?

The risks of continuous monitoring

Those who had surprised, even stunned, the counterpart of the minister, unanimously denounced a breach of equality , between students who obtained a baccalaureate related to the final exams, and students with only one baccalaureate related to continuous monitoring, and therefore in their minds, of lesser value. But what exactly can be blamed for continuous monitoring  ?

There are three major criticisms. The first, and most common, is that continuous monitoring introduces the vagaries of “localism” into a national examination. The bin must be the same everywhere. But does the uniqueness of a test guarantee the identity sought? And are the correctors not different from one city, and from one region to another? The equality guaranteed by terminal control is in reality only a fiction.

The second, and more consistent, criticism is that continuous monitoring occurs, by definition, before the end of “training”. It would therefore be fundamentally unfair, since it controls the effects of training before the candidates have been given every opportunity to control what will be controlled.

But, to get your driver’s license, you can validate the code several months before driving. Continuous monitoring can have a certificative value, if it occurs at the end of a teaching unit that can legitimately be empowered (eg at the end of a chapter or a large part of the program). Plato said that chickens must be cut according to their natural joints!

Lastly, one can criticize the continuous control of short-circuiting the examination, making the terminal note unnecessary, which is equivalent to denying its value. But it should be noted that, as part of the “Parcoursup” program, schools and universities choose their future students before the final exams! Their only role is to confirm and validate a posteriori, choices based essentially on results of continuous monitoring …

The limits of the terminal control

This is why, at the same time, the belief in the immediate value of a terminal examination deserves to be questioned. Two major observations can be made in this regard. The first is that a terminal examination, a fortiori when only its results are taken into account, is a “chopper” test. There is no longer any right to error, nor possibility of catching up. The equity of such a test is never assured.

Because, and this is the second observation, with only one terminal test per discipline, the field of probation offered to high school students is particularly narrow. Can the jury, on this single test, say with certainty, whether or not a knowledge or a skill is mastered, in general, and perennial?

The skill (s) whose mastery is targeted could have manifested itself more clearly and indisputably at other times and in other, more varied, and more open trials.

No sanctification or demonization

Finally, the question to be decided is whether the ferry can be based only on terminal tests. The challenge is to reconcile the interest of students who are candidates, with that of the company that issues diplomas. The baccalaureate is a permit to enter diploma courses, or even directly on the job market.

The interest of the candidates in this license is to be treated fairly, to prove themselves without being victims of the lottery dimension inherent to any specific event . Hence the usefulness of a significant part of continuous control, allowing them to have every opportunity to show what they are capable of.

The interest of the company is to ensure that the degree it delivers truly certifies a range, and level, knowledge and skills. Hence the usefulness of a significant part of terminal control, with rigorous choice of probation situations (common assessment tests), and rigorous framing of the “evaluative reading” that the examiners will make of the work produced by the candidates.

Neither of the two modalities of evaluation deserve to be sanctified, nor inversely demonized. Finally, the difficulty here is to understand that all control is both continuous and terminal. Terminal, because it necessarily comes after a sequence of teaching or training. Continuous because it fits into the longer time of an activity aimed at a goal.

It’s a question of knowing if, in the end, the goal is reached. Continuous control and terminal control must therefore be implemented, not according to what would be an intrinsic interest, but according to the way in which they enlighten or not, the attainment of the goal that was pursued. From this point of view, terminal control is only the ultimate point of continuous control.

Author Bio: Charles Hadji is an Honorary Professor (Education Sciences) at the University Grenoble Alpes