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Psychology in the Education System of France
A . HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
It is in the beginning of the 20th century that a law (04/15/1909) created the first special classes and schools for mentally retarded children . The famous French psychologist, Alfred BINET, was involved in this important initiative since it was on request of the Ministry of Public Instruction (a former name for the Ministry of Education) that he designed his famous test which later on was disseminated worldwide to diagnose mental retardation and evaluate children’s “intelligence“.
In the 1950s and even more after 1960, the Ministry of Education developed special classes and schools and defined various categories of handicapped children.
At the same period 1970, the necessity of prevention came at the first place and a specific disposal for school adaptation was designed under a twofold principle :
In 1975 the French Parliament passed the Orientation Law in Favour of Individuals with Disabilities (L 75-534) which made an obligation for the nation to prevent and diagnose handicaps, healing, education, vocational guidance and professional training for handicapped children and adults . This law was also the starting point for the school inclusion policy in France since it recommended “for all the children, their education in regular classes and schools whatever their disabilities could be “
A policy of school inclusion was promoted and developed through a wide range of regulations issued mainly from the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and for some of them with the Ministry of Justice .
In 1990 the GAPP changed into RASED (Réseau d’Aides Spécialisées aux Elèves en Difficulté/ SpecializedSupport Network for Pupils with Difficulties) . Prevention was always mentioned among the tasks of the RASED’s staff but School Psychologists ‘s missions were specified. A RASED is composed by a School Psychologist and specialized teacher(s).
B. SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY IN FRANCE : THREE CATEGORIES OF PSYCHOLOGISTS WORKING IN SCHOOLS
School Psychologists working in public primary schools
They are selected among teachers having at least a licence degree in psychology, through a process of interview and examination and sent by their local educational authority to prepare the State Degree in School Psychology “ DEPS” . This preparation lasts 700 hours during a school year and consists of:
So, in addition to their 2 or 3 years pedagogical training, they have worked 3 years as a teacher and they have, at least, a licence degree in psychology and one more year of specialization.
Vocational Counsellor-Psychologists working in public secondary schools
They are recruited among teachers or more generally among members of civil administration. They have, at least a licence degree through a competitive exam. When selected, they have a two years formation program (1000 hours) with a part dealing with psychology (500 hours : cognitive, differential, developmental...) applied to situations of school and vocational orientation but also with sociology, economy, educational sciences (350 hours) and thesis preparation ((140 hours). At the end, they obtain the State Degree of Vocational Counsellor-Psychologist “DECOP”.
Psychologists working in the catholic system
They have a master degree in psychology and are recruited by catholic schools or by a psychological service depending on a local catholic education authority. They are ruled according to the FrenchWork Code and the collective convention which has been discussed between professional trade unions and unions of employers (1985)
C. ORGANIZATION OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS MISSIONS
The school psychologist brings – through team work and partnership with teachers and families the resources and the specific skills he/she acquired by professional training and by experience
He/She participates specifically in the change of the school, in school inclusion and in the school achievement of all the pupils.
1.1. These actions are mainly organized within the frame of the Support Network (RASED). They imply : assessment, observation and psychological support to pupils in close relationship with teachers and families. They aim to provide information after analysing the child difficulties, to propose relevant strategies of support, to facilitate their implementation.
1.2. Clinical exams and psychometric tests are led in the school by the school psychologist on request of the teacher, other professionals or families . Individual exams cannot be led without the (written) authorization of parents (or legal tutor) . Results of psychological exams have to be considered with other data which are used when an individual educational program , a special support or an orientation towards a special class is planned . Assessment imply for the school psychologist the obligation to write a report. When the information –or some pieces of information- have to be transmitted (to a non psychologist) , the school psychologist makes sure that it should be legible and usable by the addressee.
1.3. Psychological support and follow-up The school psychologist organizes interviews with the individual child and if necessary with the teacher and with the family. The procedure aims to help the educators (teachers and/or parents) to find the educational behaviour most adapted to the current situation .With the child the psychologist aims to motivate him/her, to strengthen self confidence and self-esteem. Various approaches may be used. Most references are : brief therapy, systemic therapy, person centred therapy, group interview…
When the school psychologist identifies a problem which exceeds the limits of a psychological support within the school , he/she must advise the family to consult a specialist in a Child Guidance Centre( or in the hospital mental health department).
The concept of children with specific educations needs was adopted in France in the 1980’s. It covers a wide diversity of children and youths whose needs are very different : Children with physical, sensory, mental cognitive, emotional disabilities , or with mild or severe learning or behavioural difficulties or even specific populations like gifted children ( In French the word precocious is generally used ), children in hospitals , children in jail, children from migrant families, gipsy children etc...
2. Participation in the organization, the functioning and the life school
- contributing to the conception and the implementation of educational projects : the
- establishing links and cooperation with services and organisms outside the school : MDPH (Departemental House for Handicapped Persons), social, health and justice services.
3. Research and professional development
- On request or with the agreement of Local Education Authorities, School Psychologists may participate in researches concerning various aspects of school functioning, their environment, psychological, pedagogical and didactical factors influencing the school climate, psychological and socio psychological factor of educational processes...
- On request of training centers or Local Education Authorities organising continuous training, School Psychologists may participate in training programs in relation with their professional expertise, skills ans interests.
- psychological guidance, vocational advice and counselling : interview with students about orientation choices, group information work and open sessions with students
- individual psychological and emotional assessment through intelligence aptitudes and projective tests and interest questionnaires for students with learrning difficulties and special needs before guiding them towards special education classes
- collective testing for groups of students before orientation and vocational choices with the Psychologist’s participation in staff meetings
- accompanying educational staff teams for practice analysis, follow up of educational projects
Educational psychologists in partnership with the school community, contributes to the quality of the educational services offered to the students in the French Catholic Schools. They work with children, parents, teachers aiding in particular with academic integration and guidance in upper grades. They work side by side with teachers confronting the limits of the school institution. Their interventions may take place in the following areas :
1. Pre-elementary and elementary schools
2. Secondary schools
3. Responding to other institutional requests
More than 60 millions inhabitants in France
12 millions of pupils in primary and secondary schools
Compulsulsory education starts at 6 years old until 16 years old. Pre elementary schools though non compulsory are very much developped in France(100% from 4 to 6 years old, 95% of 3 years old children, 25% of 2 years old children)
68 500 schools
- 60 000 public schools with 750 000 teachers
Primary schools :
Secondary schools :
3 000 School Psychologists in public primary schools
Extracts of Jean Claude GUILLEMARD’s article about "School Psychology" published in Jimmerson, Oakland, Farell editors - Handbook of International School Psychology - Sage publivations Ltd London UK 2007