Agrégation in France

In France, the agrégation (French pronunciation: [aɡʁeɡasjɔ̃]) is the most prestigious and selective civil service competitive examination for the public education system. The laureates are known as agrégés. A similar system exists in other countries.

Due to the difficulty and the selectivity of this competitive exam it often requires more than one year of preparation.

There are actually two different agrégations: an agrégation for secondary education, leading to the position of professeur agrégé, and an agrégation for professorships in some disciplines of higher education.

Secondary education

The main agrégation, the most famous one, leads the candidates to the position of professeur agrégé in the secondary education. The difficulty and selectivity (number of available positions) vary from one discipline to another : there are about 300 such positions open each year in mathematics, but usually less positions for humanities and social sciences (like only around 20 for philosophy, for instance), and perhaps only one seat in some rarely taught foreign languages such as Japanese. The professeurs agrégés constitute a higher category of teachers compared to the professeurs certifiés, recruited through the CAPES. In theory, the agrégés are expected to teach at high school level (lycées) and also at university, while the certifiés teach in junior high schools (collèges), but there is a significant overlap.

In addition to the vast majority of agrégés teaching in lycées, some agrégés teach in the preparatory classes to the grandes écoles. Finally, some agrégés teach in regular universities, but do not, nominally, do scientific research as regular university academics do; the positions are known as PRAG. Some similar but temporary positions (agrégé préparateur, AGPR), including research, exist in the écoles normales supérieures, but they are obviously very few and very hard to obtain.

The agrégation is normally open only to holders of a 5-year university education (master) or above. There is also an internal agrégation for professeurs certifiés, but it lacks the prestige of the external one. The following discusses the external one.

The competitive exam generally consists of a written session (admissibility), composed of numerous dissertations and anaysis of documents, and most candidates are eliminated.

The remaining candidates have then to go through an oral part (admission), composed of different oral exams in which candidates must demonstrate their ability to prepare and give lessons on any topic within the scope of his discipline. The oral exams provide the opportunity to verify that the candidates possesses the appropriate oral skills and masters the main exercises of their discipline: for example, in the Agrégation of Classics (French, Greek, Latin), candidates have to translate and comment on classical texts and texts from French literature. It is a way to establish whether candidates are able to fulfill requirements that they are going to need to satisfy if they pass the cut.

In most disciplines, the lessons expected extend well above the secondary education level; indeed, the candidate may even have to present a lesson appropriate for the second, third or even fourth years of specialized courses at the university level. One reason is that the agrégés should be able to teach in special undergraduate sections of high schools, known as preparatory classes to the grandes écoles and very similar in nature to grammar schools, and the level may be far above the normal level of the first or second year of college education.

The agrégation is also used as an unofficial national ranking system for students, giving a fair comparison between students of different universities. That is especially true in the humanities for which the agrégation is highly selective and supposedly demonstrates erudition of the candidate.

Students of the écoles normales supérieures as well as graduate students who have just completed their master's degree often dedicate an entire year of their curriculum to prepare for the agrégation.

List of agrégations for secondary education

Enseignement des langues vivantes
Lettres et sciences humaines
Enseignement des sciences naturelles et physiques
Enseignement professionnel et technique
Enseignements artistiques
Enseignement d'éducation physique

Higher education

In some disciplines of higher education such as law, legal history, political science, economics, management, there exists an agrégation for the professorship positions, called agrégation de l'enseignement supérieur. In this competitive exam, the candidate also has to give several lessons in front of a committee.[1] Usually there are three lessons, spread over several months, except in economics, where there are only two lessons. The first and the last lessons have to be prepared alone, during eight hours, in a library of basic titles selected by the committee. For the remaining lesson, when it exists, the candidate has a full 24 hours to prepare for the examination, and may use several libraries as well as a team of "helpers" (usually doctoral candidates or fellow candidates, but never full professors).

Some anticonformist sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu have argued that this exam measures a candidate's social connections as much their ability to present a lesson, especially considering the composition of the examining committee.

List of agrégations for higher education

Well known agrégés (and discipline)

See also


Further reading

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