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Let me repost my comment from the other thread here:
Those who can't make it into a Grande Ecole or can't afford (or don't make it into) the requisite école preparatoire between ages 18 and 20 will end up in the Universities. Which is why calling the university student protesters "elites" is disingenuous.
I also have a question: it is an accepted fact that there is no way to pass the Grande École entrance examinations without spending up to 2 years in an école preparatoire, which are by themselves quite prestigious and, while being arguably post-secondary education, are still considered pre-universitary (thus giving France an unfair advantage in the International Mathematical Olympiad, but that's another story).

Anyway, my question is, what access barriers (or unfair advantages for privileged children) exist at the level of the écoles préparatoires_?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 03:00:57 PM EST
François kindly addresses my concern on the parallel thread...
There is at least one good thing about the French system. Scholarship is free. So affordability is not the issue.

The real cost of attending les classes preparatoires then les Grandes Ecoles - food, lodging, clothing, transportation, books - is at most identical to universities, and actually, much lower for most schools, as les Grandes Ecoles heavily subsidize their students' keep. Same for some classes preparatoires, which rent very cheap dorm rooms to nearly all students, while places in university dorms are very few and very hard to get.

In some few cases, X, ENS, application schools for les corpsards, students are actually paid.



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 03:33:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The real barrier lies earlier than the classes preparatoires, in high school.

It's all about picking the right track in high school and getting in the right optionals - very dependent on your parents' advice and hence educationnal level - getting the right teachers and having the good conditions to study and have good scores - depends on location hence social class - knowing which prep you should petition - there again, depends on advice received - etc, etc.

It's not as blunt as the US system (money, "good schools" and emphasis on fucking stupid extra-curricular activities heavily skewed towards upper middle classes) but it also works pretty "well" as a social filter.

After that, you have the money issue to support you during those years but as I mentionned earlier, it's mostly a matter of wether or not you can afford a higher education at all rather than which one you can get.

Once you are in the system, it's really and brutally meritocratic.
by Francois in Paris on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 03:45:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not as blunt as the US system (money, "good schools" and emphasis on fucking stupid extra-curricular activities heavily skewed towards upper middle classes)

Money isn't an issue for the US equivalent of the top grandes ecoles - if you get in and are from a family with below median income you'll have a free ride for tuition, housing, and food. You have to be very well off to pay the full price of tuition these days. The real problems are that you're likely to go to a mediocre high school if you're poor, not have parents to help you out, have poor college admissions advisors, less time and money for extracurriculars, not be able to afford SAT prep classes, etc.  In other words similar to the issues that exist in France, though my impression is that the difference in public school quality between poor and wealthy neighbourhoods is much worse in the US than France.  On the other hand if you're non white you get the benefit of affirmative action which can compensate for some of this, though many minority kids who get in are from the upper middle classes, with many of the rest children of well educated but poor immigrants.

by MarekNYC on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 04:00:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Money is a real issue for the mushy middle who doesn't get the full benefit of tuition and costs assistance. The "solution" is debt as, more and more, assistance is drifting away from grants and towards loans. I agree US universities have started to modestly revise their cost structures and their tuition policies that got completely out of hands over the past 20 years, but it's pretty recent.

Elite American universities are a very expansive proposition for undergrads (and a dubious one, IMHO). After that, you probably get a much better ROI from Harvard or Stanford at the graduate and post-grad levels. Although at the graduate level, it probably doesn't have much to do with the objective quality of the education and much more with the name (except for a few institutions with truly outstanding standards : MIT, Wharton, etc).
by Francois in Paris on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 04:19:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Money is a real issue for the mushy middle who doesn't get the full benefit of tuition and costs assistance.

For the top end (Ivies, Stanford, etc.)if by mushy middle you mean people towards the lower end of the top fifth you'd be right. For people who are from around the median tuition is covered by financial aid, and at least some of the room and board often will be as well.

Money is a real issue for the mushy middle who doesn't get the full benefit of tuition and costs assistance. The "solution" is debt as, more and more, assistance is drifting away from grants and towards loans.

Exactly the opposite for the elite universities with some   having completely eliminated loans in their financial aid packages.

If you're from a middle income family why would going to state U. be better than a Harvard or Princeton? In the former you'll get few if any grants, get loans for tuition, and have to pay for room and board. In the latter you'll get a free ride on tuition, all grants, no loans. Sure the sticker price is a hell of a lot higher at Harvard, but what matters is what you actually pay.

For grad school - you don't pay a cent at the elite private universities for tuition for Ph.D. programs, and you get a stipend added on. For law - different type of education - more theoretical, abstract, rather than practical at the elite schools whether public or private, and much better chances of landing that associate slot at a top firm with its solid six figure starting salary.  Unless your parents are loaded you're going to end up heavily in debt - not much financial aid available in law school - however, some of the elite private law schools will pay off some or all of your debt if you take a non-profit or public sector job (depends on your salary and how long you stay outside the private sector).

Not too familiar with the business and med school situation - my friends tended to either go for Ph.D's or to law school.  (For non Americans - law and medicine are graduate disciplines in the US, i.e. you must get a university degree before you can study them and it can be in pretty much anything you want)

by MarekNYC on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 05:27:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For grad school - you don't pay a cent at the elite private universities for tuition for Ph.D. programs, and you get a stipend added on.

Marek, we must be living in parallel universe :)

I've been poking around recently on behalf of a cousin and science grad school at Stanford or CalTech is not free by any means. Oh gosh no! Over $60,000 for a 2 years MS and the vaunted scholarships are very, very stingy (and close to non existent for foreign students).

Now, if you can tell what the $10 billion endowment Stanford is sitting on is paying for, let me know. To me, that's a complete mystery..
by Francois in Paris on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 07:20:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I admit I'm a bit more familiar with the humanities, but in general masters programs work differently - terminal masters candidates, i.e. those not  doing the degree as the first stage of their Ph.D program, do have to pay. Back when I was applying the rule of thumb was that some private programs had a two tier system for those admitted into the doctoral program - some students getting a five year deal - no tuition, stipend, three year teaching requirement - some getting no aid - these have been being phased out. The others, including Stanford, gave full rides to everyone they admitted. The public ones generally had year by year financial aid systems - i.e. you had to reapply each year, with of course a teaching requirement unless you get outside funding.

 The ten billion btw, provides a good chunk of the operating budget which a quick google tells me was $2.6 billion (not including capital spending or hospitals). Just over half of that goes to salaries and benefits. Nineteen percent comes from students.  Sixteen percent comes from the endowment, another five percent from non-endowment gifts. With the long boom market and the somewhat related increase in giving, the endowment has been skyrocketing. But using a bit over 4% of the endowment for current spending, which I believe is pretty typical, doesn't sound that strange as a long term conservative approach. These are very wealthy institutions but they also spend absolute fortunes.

by MarekNYC on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 01:37:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...they also spend absolute fortunes.

Sure, but on what ? The economics of top-level US academic institutions remain beyond the comprehension of my limited brain power. Sort of a "US DoD" syndrom, enormous expenditures, little pressure to scale them down and very modest delivery.
by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 08:12:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are not living in a parallel universe, but perhaps you are not properly understanding the graduate school enrollment issue. My daughter went to a prestigious east coast school for graduate school (M.A.) and it cost about $2000 a year, mostly for airplane tickets home. She had a small scholarship, a teaching assistantship, and a summer job, and has no debt at this point. Many of her friends are in similar situations.

The American system, like the French system, must be properly "played," but it is perfectly possible to get into a good school, if you have good test scores and grades, even if you come from a poor family and a third rate high school, and, further, if you fall off the tracks for a few years, it's possible--although hard--to recover and make up the difference later.

Further, the cost of excellent state schools is a complicated formula where all costs and benefits are not immediately apparent. For example, the University of Colorado, a huge state school with about 25,000 undergraduates, boasts several Nobel Laureates and has a broad range of leading programs. Cost for out-of-state students is about $32k per year (all inclusive), comparable to the cost of high-end private schools. The in-state cost is around $15k, which I know sounds outrageous to Europeans. However, this does not take into account grants, rebates, and special case situations that apply to many students. For example, there is an automatic state reimbursement of (I forget what, about $1000 a year) that everybody gets, and funding from the state College Opportunity Fund worth about $1400. You can get federal Pell grants for up to $4000 a year, FSEOG grants for up to $2000, CLEAP grants to $2000, and a bunch of others. You can get a full scholarship by signing up for the military via the ROTC program. Also, most churches give small scholarships to a few students, as do small businesses and parents' employers.

In addition, the state school systems have a broad range of opportunities. In Colorado (which is not unique) there is the very highly rated School of Mines, the excellent Colorado State University, a number of smaller four year schools like Western State, for example, plus extension schools located at remote sites (e.g. CSU has a small campus in Pueblo, 200 miles from the main campus). Also there are two year schools that allow kids who didn't quite make the honor roll in High School to take basic classes that are 100% transferrable to the regular colleges, at a fraction of the cost. Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, for example, costs about $200 per credit hour (16 hours being a typical full course load).

So the bottom line is that there are some kids who come out with huge loans, but plenty of others don't, or have only small loans.

by asdf on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 01:45:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It very much depends on what you are studying.

In some disciplines, yes, there is no excuse for paying for a PhD.  (These include subjects where you won't earn enough money afterward to pay back loans anyway.)  In others, you incur lots of debt.  Sometimes it's a combination.

My sisters and I are good examples.  We went to different grad schools in different subjects.  I paid almost all of my grad school expenses through loans, one sister got funding for about half of hers, and the other was completely funded and paid nothing.  Each situation was normal for our respective fields of study at the time.

And yes, there is dramatically less funding available for foreign students, at least from the universities and programs themselves.

In my grad program, most of our international students were funded by the US government, oddly, which had several programs set up for students from "emerging democracies."  Thus we had students from Eritrea, Albania, Azerbaijan and Hungary, but none from France, the UK or Germany.  (We also had students from India, Tawian and South Korea, but their funding was different.)

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 02:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with debt, part time jobs, working summers + available scholarships.

My wife and I are from the baby boomer generation, (OK, first half), with large extended families--lots of nephews, nieces, cousins, etc.  Our parents were upper/lower class to lower/middle class.  Looking across two generations (ours, including our cousins, and the one following), there are about 80 people.  No one did not go to college due to not being able to find the money to go.  3 unfortunately had drug problems and their were two with mental disabilities, and three did not want to go (married after high school and farm kids, wanting that life style).  The rest went to college and graduated.

The types of colleges covered a wide range, but it was an interesting discussion, because we realized that there were some very bright kids (valedictorians, high test scores) who really chose there colleges based on comfort levels, where friends were going, expectations of friends and families.  In other words, a number of kids could have easily qualified for higher ranked schools (top 25 prestige schools)than they went to, both scholastically and through financial aid--but just wanted to go somewhere else--often the state school, which are great academicaly as we looked at them, but don't have the prestige.)  It looks like 5 of us went to "elite" undergrad programs.

So I think there are some similarities to what Jerome described about France, in that the high school you are in, or expectations of your peers and family are likely to dictate where you go to school.  But our experience says that great grades, high test scores (like SAT's) and motivation to go to the "elite", maybe elite-lite, schools,,,you can do that--finances (scholarship, loans, part time jobs, summer jobs) will not stop you.

by wchurchill on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 09:18:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Per-student public financing of state universities have gone down a lot in the past 20 years and tuitions up a lot. You boomers have had it very easy compared to current 20 somethings.
by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 11:02:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be interesting to see some study on the big picture here.  What has happened to all the factors?--tuitions, scholarships, available loans, maybe the student job market (not sure that could be measured--but maybe how much of student expenses are paid by student earnings today versus the '70's.)

My impressions on this are based on reading about some of these factors individually (like I think you are right that tuitions have gone up rapidly), and on anecdotal things--family and friends' children's experiences.

Have scholarships increased for example?--I think endowments for private universities have, but I don't know about scholarships.  

I'll look around, but I haven't seen such an all encompassing article.

by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 12:54:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gee, I haven't read about that in a while and I don't have references handy but my overall impression is that public financing of state Us has not kept up with exploding enrollments over the past 30 years, making everybody's share of the pie much smaller, hence increased dependence on tuition and private funding (donations, revenues from patents) and quite altering the organization and independence of the universities. I believe too that operating costs have gone up in many universities, public and private (more professors? better paid? bigger bureaucracies?).

No time for a google dive so I let that to you :)
by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 01:26:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, state university funding is complex, but it's a combination of actual state funding (not a lot in the grand scheme, mainly salaries, see below), university endowments, research grants, contract revenues and income from other sources, including sports-related revenue.  Reliance on private funding doesn't necessarily mean anybody's got a smaller piece of pie.

In the 10 years since I left grad school, in fact, my school has been able to provide much more financial support for students than they could when I was there.  (In my program, it was basically no financial support at the time, which is why I took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt, now mercifully paid off.)

Successful alumni give a lot of money, some of it to the universities themselves (general funds, etc.) and some directly to the programs, schools or departments from which they graduated.

In the case of my graduate school, they've nearing the end of an eight-year general fundraising campaign that has raised more than $1.6 billion so far (the goal is $2b) and will increase the university's endowment by more than $628 million.  This fundraising campaign includes goals for each school or department.

Sports is also a big part of the puzzle, and not from ticket revenues, either.  The university has recently decided to use 100 percent of revenues from sales of trademark-licensed products on scholarships and financial aid.  Those products include T-shirts and caps bearing the school logo, which given that it's a major sports school with basketball jerseys worn around the world (I'm not exaggerating, I've seen them), that is a lot of money.

Meanwhile, in the actual program I attended within the university, an anonymous donor just endowed a professorship with a $3m gift.  The school says "private funds" (whatever those are) account for 78 percent of its budget, not including payroll, which is covered by the university (except for those endowed professorships, of which there are several).

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 02:31:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
both my undergrad and grad schools are private, and they have been very successful with their fund raising programs.  Same kinds of experiences where very successful peoplle graduating from certain departments have made multi-million dollar gifts.  Grants were very strong through 2000, slowed some when the bubble broke, but they are continuing to do well now.  No luck on the sports programs unfortunately--not big on the win/loss i'm afraid.  My initial cuts on the internet have shown quite a bit of information available for individual colleges, but I haven't been able to find any summary information yet.
by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 05:23:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to mention that no small part of that private funding is corporate, and not without controversy.  A major pharmaceutical company endowed a professorship in my program when I was there, and we had a computer lab named after a major tobacco company.  Both prompted major complaints about professional integrity, ethics, etc., from the more earnest students (of which there were quite a few) and major snarkiness from the entire student body.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 02:07:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite simply, you need to be good in math to get in, and to have remained in the appropriate classes until the baccalauréat. That means that your parents must have pushed you to be good enough in math (and ideally other topics as well) to remain on the right track. Not having been kicked out into apprenticeships, obviously, not having been pushed (or not choosing to go) into the classes in the last years of high school that focus more on litterature or other similar non-scientific topics. And hiving good enough grades to be selected.

It's more the cultural background, and family environment for homework and encouragement, that play, and these favor those that already know the system - those with parents already in or teachers.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 03:53:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The best public classes préparatoires selectively choose the best students around, so whether you're rich or poor is no problem. If you're poor you can even get a scholarship, boarding, etc.

All the other public classes préparatoires take the 2nd best students around (some even can't be too choosy, they only exist for more or less statistical reasons and have limited budgets, which means not so talented teachers, which means not so good results, which means they can't be too choosy ...). Unless you end up lousy during the 1st year, you generally get to stay for the length of the preparation.

The best private classes préparatoires will take the best students around AND some 2nd best students around provided that they can line up the euro bills (with a rare exception to Ste Geneviève -and possibly others I don't know of- which makes you pay a tuition relative to your parents' revenue). If you're not too good at the end of the 1st year, you get kicked out so that the establishment can maintain good results the next year, which is good for their prestige.

All the other private classes préparatoires are not too choosy (even less so than the average public ones). They essentially want students capable of paying, and won't throw anyone away.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 03:59:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Though it must be added that good students don't always want to go to one of the better public classes préparatoires, for example if it involves moving to Toulouse when a bright kid is from Agen (100km away), the kid may opt for an average public classe préparatoire in Agen instead. But if his parents know the deal, they'll encourage him to go to one of the better ones in Toulouse
by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 04:02:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You fucking betcha. For my parents, it was "you go wherever you need to go, no if, no but, no question asked".

When I think of a few friends who didn't want to move to Paris or Lyon because of family or girlfriend, gosh ...
by Francois in Paris on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 04:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But everyone, in any classe préparatoire, is entitled to pass any entrance competition he wants. ie. even a lousy student from a cheap public classe préparatoire can attempt to get into X. Some classes préparatoires put heavy pressure on average students not to attempt too good schools so that the establishment's results don't appear too bad.

I was in the sister prépa of Ste Geneviève (which is a very good prépa) in Toulouse. It was a private, brand new prépa, Jesuits ... not too choosy, and certainly not as good as Ste Geneviève. It did ok with our batch, sending a few to X, Mines, Supelec ect and a few to HEC/ESSEC/ESCP etc. But I wasn't one of the ones to be that successful.

First of all, how and why did I end up in an unknown private classe prépa? Well I had been travelling all my life, going to whatever school system was available (Indian, English, American, Canadian, French, International) ... while doing distance education with the CNED as time allowed (public French distance education system). So I was bit confused with all those systems. I had to pass my Baccalaureate C (emphasis on maths/physics/chemistry) as a freelance candidate, and didn't have the right methodology ... as my philosophy teacher in my baccalaurate year was Canadian, my maths teacher Vietnamese, my Biology teacher Belgian ... each teaching in ways quite different from the French system.

So I went to pass my baccalaureate as a free candidate, with all the wrong tools. For example in Maths (very heavy coefficient), I finished the exam in an hour and left with a huge grin thinking it was ultra easy. Why? Because I didn't know that I had to justify everything I said. For example to the question "what is the limit of suite u(n)?", I would answer "3" and move on. As a result I got a 5 in Maths, and barely got a 10 in Physics/Chemistry. I only got my baccalaureate thanks to all the more literary topics where methodology didn't count as much as brains. But with those kinds of results, and coming from such a messed up background, no prestigious public classe préparatoire would take me.

What's more, I couldn't do Maths Sup because of my horrible results in Maths/Physics, so had to do HEC (economy) as this new prépa's director thought it would be an experiment for his system to see if someone as jumbled as me, with only one foreign language (when two were required), could live up to the challenge. And boy did I not want to do HEC! (and which frankly I think is potentially harder than Maths Sup because you have to be good in a lot of general topics like economy, history, geography, philosophy & literature, two languages ... and all along while maintaining a decent level in Maths - ie. 13 hours a week of maths lessons ... often our oral exams in Analysis were on the Maths Sup program -not Maths Spé :)  ). And I know what I'm talking about, most of my friends were in Maths Sup at the time and seemed to be having a lot more fun than me).

I soon enough realized that I hated prépa HEC, which was very hard for me (had to catch up on the French system, sometimes even on entire years I had missed out on, while also learning a 2nd language from scratch ... Spanish ... in a hurry) ... and I wanted out, so I zapped the idea of getting a prestigious one and instead aimed for the only two potentially non-business public schools I could get ... and got the public managerial telecom one (I also got those schools I hated above all, Grenoble, Toulouse ... the ones which back then were snotty and pretending to be good, but which ironically are now considered prestigious. I was so unmotivated by the idea of going there that during the interview at Grenoble for example, when asked why I wanted that school, I said "because Grenoble is a nice town and I like playing hockey" ... these schools embodied everything I hated about HEC ... my hard-leftie hormones were overdeveloped in those days ... what with all the Keynes and other bullshit I had to eat and eat and eat).

And so started my computer life, as I went for an engineering specialisation in my final year (instead of a managerial one) at my Grande Ecole. Which is why I had chosen it in the first place anyhow ... to have a go at a more techie future. It worked!

And right now I don't even give a shit about my diploma. I don't give a shit about my Grande Ecole's ranking, I don't give a shit about anything it means. Besides, my diploma is signed by François Fillon, and I don't like him ... he was Minister of Industry back then.

But just to get there I had to endure 40 hours of lessons per week, plus an addition 10-20 hours of exams per week. Which means that whatever time is left you have to spend studying.

This system is far too satisfied with its sense of elitism ... a lot of students in classes prépa believe they are gods ... and besides if someone as unprepared and unconventional as me can get through to the 2nd-tier prestigious schools, then it only proves that the system is worthless. Besides bis, my bunkmate in prépa was a shy boy with modest grades (12 average at his baccalaureate) when he entered our prépa ... but guess what ... he ended up going to X (after turning down Rue d'ULM!!!! (which is the top of the top of the top in Maths ... I believe they only take 23 students every year, the best in Maths). This guy was so gifted in Maths that he would even correct his teacher during lessons! However he had been turned down by all the prestigious public prépas because his Maths grades were modest prior to starting classes préparatoires. Which again, proves the system is worthless.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 04:50:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only people complaining about the system are either those that know how it works but failed to get in, ot the smart weirdos like you and Agnes that like to think they're different - and better than the plodding prépa students they had to frequent...

<ducks behind wall to avoid objects thrown at him>

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 05:27:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok that got me laughing out loud. My cover's blown.

But nahhhh I really didn't like prépa (even if I recognize the marvels it's done to my sense of organisation), if at least on the simple basis that everyone else our age was out having fun at University while we were pale and sweating in front of piles of obscure books, dreaming of girls (or boys) and frat parties!

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 05:33:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only people complaining about the system are either those that know how it works but failed to get in

Heh. But this implies, doesn't it, that it is by nature an elitist system? That is, there are large numbers of people not complaining, because they have no notion of how it works? For them all this is Mandarin, it might as well be going on in the Forbidden City.

The truth is that classes prépa/Grandes Ecoles form an efficient socio-economic filter. In almost all cases, the family (and its background) will decide that their child will (if capable, I agree) enter this system. In almost all cases, access to a good lycée is necessary, and the good lycées are for the upper stretches of the class structure. Detailed knowledge of an intricate system is necessary, and considerable expense of time and energy to work it. (This is why teachers' children may get in, as representatives of the lower middle class, because their parents are in a position to learn the rules of the game and push their kids in the right direction at every twist and turn).

This isn't a sour grapes reaction on my part. I went through the elitist system of another country, and my critique is simply the result of my observation of what happens in the French one.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 03:13:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh I agree, and that's why I like the Sciences Po experiment: they don't dilute the admission criteria, but they go to "difficult" high school in underprivileges areas to explain to them that they can send students to them too, what is needed, and what is at stake. With aware and motivated students AND teachers, the results have been really good - and fully deserved. It's simply about getting people to actually know where the goalposts are, and how to give them a shot.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 04:27:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely, the Science Po' experiment is a useful and necessary one. Not just on grounds of equity (though those are enough on their own), but on grounds of efficiency. The French system as it stands leaves a whole lot of capable people behind. There's too big a gap between the top level and the rest of the following field. There's an efficiency and creativity boom to be set off there. (And tapping into the energy of young people of immigrant origin would be positive in a number of ways).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 11:57:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
HEC (and which frankly I think is potentially harder than Maths Sup because you have to be good in a lot of general topics like economy, history, geography, philosophy & literature, two languages ... and all along while maintaining a decent level in Maths - ie. 13 hours a week of maths lessons ... often our oral exams in Analysis were on the Maths Sup program -not Maths Spé :)  ). And I know what I'm talking about, most of my friends were in Maths Sup at the time and seemed to be having a lot more fun than me).

he ended up going to X (after turning down Rue d'ULM!!!! (which is the top of the top of the top in Maths ... I believe they only take 23 students every year, the best in Maths)

As I said, my two points were bound to be made lower in the thread. Thank you Alex !!
True, prépa HEC is by far more difficult than Math Sup-Math Spé, at least when it comes to knowledge diversification. That's the reason why it used to be a one-year classe préparatoire, and was turned into two, as the knowledge to be acquired was just too broad.
Many people who do not want to lose the foreign language and economy, geography skills they acquired during secondary education opt for prépa HEC instead of Math Sup.
Just to mention by the way that the top classes préparatoires have been, for a long time now, and unless I am mistaken, Louis le Grand and Henri IV in Paris.

Outside Paris, doing really well historically are Pierre de Fermat in Toulouse and Lycée du Parc in Lyon. My references may require some up-date though.
The second quote addresses my concern on Rue d'Ulm (Centrale maths) being left out in Jérôme's  diary.
Now I can with peaceful mind return to the depths of lurkedom.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 03:07:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think what you and Colman did with that ET political compass graph was brilliant.  I'm just wondering if you plan on keeping this available, or perhaps allowing newcomers to participate and then update the charts.  Just wanted to let you know, not sure if you are colman are the originator, how good this was, and to see if you have further thoughts about continuing it.
by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 01:57:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I got a little tired of hogging the evening open threads with the Political Compass, but I agree it was somewhat interesting. We should think of a way to keep this visible but inobstrusive... Maybe you could bring this up on an open thread?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 02:45:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would be happy to bring it up.  I'll try to make sure i'm on one of the open threads.  I usually am off time schedule with them, but it won't be a problem.  And I like the way you put it, "visible but unobtrusive".
by wchurchill on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 02:50:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could put teh ET political Compass in the ET Community members section ET Wiki section, like the ET users' map.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 05:19:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, except that tried to and I can't update the pages for some reason. This has happened before, and Colman had to fix it.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 05:28:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 11:22:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll give it a go tonight.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 11:28:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great!!
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:02:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But first I have to repair the vandalism.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:03:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vandalism???
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:07:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Check out the slew of recent changes by 'Nick'.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:09:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You were faster then I Nick only shows up in wiki history at this point. Vandals - what pests! Thanks for the clean up.
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:17:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a white collar wikiWorker, not a wikiJanitor. </snark>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:21:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We are ALL wikiJanitors, no class distinctions here. Sorry about your white collar. </re-snark>
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:27:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WikiCommunism. <re-re-snark>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:39:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
or vandal red scare
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 04:52:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I need a wikiShower — said Migeru on emerging from the wikiLatrine.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 05:21:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I am breaking my break-off commitment for the purpose of this diary.
As a graduate of a French Grande Ecole, there are some points on which I would like to comment, at least on the top of this thread, and apologise in advance if these have been addressed lower on.

First thing : it is not accurate that you cannot get into a Grande Ecole without undergoing the 2 (most of time actually 3 years) of Classes préparatoires.
Grandes Ecoles have for several years had a quota of intake of students who have spent 2 years at the uni (DEUG level).
This BTW is often questioned by those Grandes Ecoles students who went through the traditionnal Prépa system.

Second thing : well done diary, as usually, but I would have two questions :
1. why are Centrale students  being left aside ? I may have lost track of the recent developments, but to my knowledge, Ecole Centrale still exists, with two sections (one being literature, the other science).
At the top of corporate ladder of many French companies, it is either the X clique, or the Centrale clique, each ruling the other out. The latter like to point out that they by far outstrip the X.

2. why are top business schools left aside ?
True they do have such hegemony in companies boards as the ENA-X cliques, however the merits of schools such as HEC, ESCP-EAP and ESSEC is that they train managers and people who learn to adapt themselves, and not people who are taught that there is only one truth, and one reality,  that of facts (X and Ecoles d'ingénieurs) or that change is dangerous (ENA).

I would add that business schools, with their policy of growing international, are better known and recognised in other European countries and in the US than Ecoles d'Ingénieurs who so far have been  more "frenchy".
ESCP has had a double-graduation programme with TU-Berlin and Oxford for many years now, and HEC is worlwide known for prestigious jvs with LSE, Wharton, etc.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 02:48:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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