Should the French take a refresher course in maths at British universities?

One user on Twitter insisted that French students are now required to take a “remedial course” in maths. right?

“French undergraduates in the UK now have to take a remedial course in maths. I’ve never seen it.” On January 10, a user on Twitter reported that the way French students are recruited at British universities has changed dramatically. Reason? Lowering of mathematics level of high school students. The tweet was seen by 370,000 people and caused strong reactions. So much so that the message was finally deleted this Wednesday afternoon. Was the advanced claim true?

From 2020 onwards, the undergraduate reform, which ended the general L, S and ES streams and led to the creation of specialisations, raises level questions in mathematics. Moreover, according to the Ministry of National Education, the number of mathematics hours provided between 2018 and 2020 decreased by more than 18%, that is, by 33,500 hours. Something to worry pre-service teachers about. “We see students who don’t know how to count, who can’t solve a 5th or 4th level equation”, the math teacher in the scientific preparation class trusts. To compensate, some engineering schools, such as Esiea, ECE or IMT Nord Europe, set up intensive improvement programs in the first year.

Grades or math tests are required

And the British? Mariet Robert, founder of Ulysses International Studies, an organization that supports students in the application process to international universities, has never heard of the obligation to take remedial courses. “Each university can choose its own selection criteria. This could be by setting a minimum grade at the undergraduate level and possibly requiring a minimum grade in supplementary mathematics or expert mathematics.”he explains.

“We had some concerns about the impact of the Bac reform on the level of French high school students”Sam Twells, Regional Director, Office of Admissions

A few universities also require math tests that may be required during selection. “Oxford or Imperial College London use them in their recruitment process”, adds Mariet Robert. Before determining: “Also, if the student does not have the level, he can enroll in a one-year ‘foundation year’ to deepen his knowledge. A university cannot prescribe a foundation year, but can offer one if, for example, a student does not have the required grades for an undergraduate degree.

Cambridge University has (slightly) revised its requirements

The London School of Economics, a prestigious business school, asks students passing their French BA to achieve a grade of 15 or 16/20 in mathematics. To join a program at the University of Cambridge, candidates must have an overall average of at least 16/20 and take mathematics courses in the first and final. An expert mathematics qualification is also required for certain courses. “We had some concerns about the impact of the baccalaureate reforms on the level of French high school students. For this reason, in May 2020, our mathematics faculty revised the new undergraduate curriculum and recommended these new turn shares Sam Twells, regional director of the admissions office.

However, the level of mathematics of the French does not concern all universities. “Because we have very high demands in mathematics, we do not see a difference in level between those who come from the French system or from elsewhere”explains Nathan Brenner, head of recruitment at the London School of Economics.

Other countries follow the level of the French

The UK is not the only country focusing on maths levels. In Canada, at HEC Montreal, French candidates can only be accepted if they have taken mathematics courses in their first and last year. In addition, a preparatory year is imposed on all students who have not obtained a bachelor’s degree in Quebec to be on par with Quebec bachelors who graduate at 19 instead of 18 in France. They are taught other subjects as well as mathematics. Regarding the level of the French, Faustine Chevet, director of the HEC Montreal European office, says: “Since Covid we have felt a difference and therefore the bachelor reform. We have more struggling students than ever. But we don’t know what caused it. Our teams have analyzed high school math programs, which are well established.

” ALSO READ – Pre-service teachers lament the drop in maths levels after the baccalaureate reform.

In Switzerland, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne again requires about 16/20 in expert mathematics. “But in January, regardless of the nationality, if the partial education of the students is bad, they should spend their second semester in the improvement course”, notes Pierre Dillenbourg, assistant vice president for education at the Swiss engineering school. A course successfully completed by two-thirds of French students. “They do it better than the Swiss, who fail 50% of the time. With more and more French people at EPFL, it is even more encouraging to see them achieve such good results year after year.”

However, for institutions considering that the level of mathematics in French is very low, let us remind that last November, the Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, announced that in the fall of 2023, compulsory teaching of mathematics will be started for the first time.

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