These professional baccalaureate graduates who defy the forecasts


If admission procedures limit their chances of access to higher education, some vocational baccalaureate holders slip through the cracks. Like Thibaut, bachelor in carpentry, who validated his license in sciences and techniques of physical and sports activities (STAPS) in three years, before attempting the Certificate of Aptitude for the Professor of Physical and Sports Education in accordance with his initial project.

As for Cristina, who “has dreamed of being a Paris firefighter since she was little”, she chose after college the specialty of security professions while practicing assiduously, and at a good level, dance and boxing. Bachelor with honors, she enrolled in STAPS, an orientation imagined since college, in order to stay in the world of sport while benefiting from training favorable to her professional prospects.

The teachers at his school tried to dissuade him and the principal even “drew a drawing of a plane which broke, which crashed” to illustrate the risks of such an orientation. Three years later, Cristina, who holds a license, is enrolled in a master’s sports training program and will take the non-commissioned officer competition.

For his part, Albert oriented in maintenance of industrial equipment because he had not been able to go to general high school, saw his passage in vocational high school positively. The practical lessons allow him to place himself in a school dynamic that invites him to consider a daring pursuit of study:

“I wanted to do something where you have to think more, where you have to do math or physics […] and maybe have a job that I would like a little, rather than being a simple worker. “

After obtaining the baccalaureate with first class honors, Albert joined a preparatory class for the grandes écoles which he considered as “a bridge to go to an engineering school” in the footsteps of a former high school student who joined Polytechnique. .

Less than 7% of those enrolled in a license

These atypical paths draw attention to the presence and success of professional baccalaureate holders where they are not expected. They bring to light the strategies deployed by young people to carry out a study project in line with their life course and their ability to resist the guidance power of the educational institution, asserting themselves as actors in their school history. .

The presence of vocational baccalaureate holders in higher education may appear surprising in view of their specific secondary education which rather prepares for direct access to the labor market. It is less so when the gaze shifts to their personal or professional project, their school experiences, their extracurricular hobbies and the historical foundations of this diploma.

Created in 1985 and become the second baccalaureate in France in terms of numbers, the vocational baccalaureate is presented as training organized for the exercise of a profession while allowing access to higher education. Currently, half of vocational terminal students wish to continue their studies. However, only a third of vocational baccalauréat holders access higher education without an apprenticeship contract (against 17% in 2000), when this is the case for almost all general baccalauréat holders and three quarters of technological baccalauréat holders. They most often opt for a higher technician section (STS) and their enrollment rate in higher education has progressed mainly towards these STS (25% against 10% in 2000 excluding apprenticeship).

For many years now, they have represented less than 7% of those enrolled in a license at the University in various training courses: human and social sciences, languages, economic and social administration, law, STAPS, letters … rarely in a university institute of technology. .\

Their presence in preparatory class for the grandes écoles (CPGE) is even rarer (0.1% in 2020). Admission to the CPGE, a particularly selective post-baccalaureate course in France, remains the prerogative of a small circle of young people. Faced with this context, across the country, six high schools offer professional baccalaureate graduates a three-year CPGE (three scientific and three economic classes). The young people met in one of these classes underline the importance of academic skills, but also of extracurricular resources, of professional experiences which can give meaning to studies, and of a project which expresses an academic and / or social ambition. .

Some have been able to experience an imposed orientation towards vocational education while others assume and demand this decision. All of them make their time in vocational high school a time to (re) build a favorable relationship to knowledge which stimulates a desire to rebound towards higher studies, in a favorable school dynamic confirmed by their mention in the baccalaureate. In their own words, this CPGE constitutes “a second chance”, “an opportunity”, “a challenge”, “a springboard” …

Professional baccalaureate holders registered at the University have generally matured their project well. Shutterstock

Project dynamics

Professional baccalaureate holders enrolled in university are rarely there by chance or by default. The STAPS, for example, represent a space that allows them to extend a positive experience lived through their leisure activities, sport. The feeling of success in this subject, reinforced by a competitive extracurricular practice, leads them to formulate an ambition to study and a project to stay in the world of sport.

In contrast to a more or less constrained orientation towards vocational school, their approach to university is proactive and even offensive, ignoring institutional discouragement. They enroll in university training in sports professions to root their career in a coherence that links their family and sports history to their life project. They also offer themselves an academic rebound by relying on a sporting practice that they consider as a structuring element of their course and plan to work passionately in connection with sport.

The resources accumulated outside school, for professional baccalaureate holders in STAPS, or in school, for those enrolled in CPGE, their ability to get into a project dynamic and the support of their family in this ambition, can explain these exceptional orientations . They have benefited at a given moment in their sports or school history from institutional recognition, through sports competition and grades, through sports supervision and / or the teachers who identified them.

The merits of their determination to invest in the more improbable courses of higher education are thus legitimized. Informed of the difficulties, they undertake long studies: relying on their motivation, these steep paths appear as a promising path to achieve a personal and professional project, in search of consistency between their aspirations and the playing opportunities offered by institution at some point. “Nothing is impossible in fact… if there is the motivation behind it, anyone can do it”, according to Cristina.

If few of them obtain their license in three years , going to university is beneficial in terms of professional integration . While the trend in France is to promote linear and rapid school curricula and that professional baccalaureate holders experience paths marked by breaks and bifurcations more than other high school students , these graduates invite them to (re) consider the importance of modular training courses as well as the pool of young people who aspire to other professional perspectives through higher education.

Author Bios: Christine Guégnard is a Researcher in Educational Sciences, associated with IREDU (Institute for research on education, sociology and economics of education) and Carine Erard is a Teacher-Researcher at UFR STAPS – Faculty of Sports Sciences and member of IREDU both at the University of Burgundy – UBFC