J-PAL Europe/IPP – Feedback n°3
“Graduating from high school: the effects of a boarding school for disadvantaged students on their secondary education”
The Sourdun Internat d’Excellence (boarding school of excellence) was opened in September 2009. It concentrates significant resources on lower and upper secondary pupils from poorer backgrounds and at the median of the French attainment distribution. In 2009 and 2010, the boarding school received more applications than it had places. Places were randomly allocated to the eligible pupils, leading to the formation of two perfectly comparable groups, the group attending the boarding school and a control group. This report presents the results of tracking the school careers of these pupils, now that they have all reached baccalauréat age. 47% of the pupils in the control group obtained the general baccalauréat, whereas this figure was 68% for the pupils at Sourdun. This increase of 21 percentage points is due partly to a drop in the number of pupils leaving without a qualification (this effect is observed mainly among the girls) and partly to the substitution of the technical baccalauréat with the general baccalauréat (this effect is observed mainly among the boys). The results show that it is possible to radically transform the school careers of pupils from poorer backgrounds, undermining the notion that education policy is powerless to overcome inequality. But by investing significant resources in pupils with average attainment levels, Sourdun does not answer the question of what to do for pupils with the lowest attainment levels.
Key Points :
- Attending the Sourdun Internat d’Excellence radically transforms pupils’ school careers by channelling more of them towards the general baccalauréat, which they often gain with high marks (avec mention), and in the Science (S) section.
- The effect is particularly marked among pupils who entered Sourdun at lower secondary level (aged 11), whose orientation was less firmly fixed than for those who entered at upper secondary level (aged 15).
- Among boys, the general baccalauréat mainly substitued the technical baccalauréat; among girls it substitued leaving without any qualifications.
- The programme is aimed at pupils from poorer backgrounds whose attainment levels are average, but it does not answer the question of what to do for pupils with the lowest attainment levels.