The repetition rate of Neuchâtel’s students as seen by the pedagogue Claude-Alain Kleiner

Are Neuchâtel students worse than elsewhere (here, a class in Germany)?

“Decades of work to get here!” This is the cry from the heart of the pioneers of the 1970s and beyond, when they heard of the disgraceful ranking of the canton of Neuchâtel in terms of the repetition rate of pupils.

These elders who had made the fight against school failure a fight for a more just society, respectful of the republican pact of 1872! Ambassadors of that time, opening the way to a school privileging differentiated pedagogy, with almost no repetition. Thus, Neuchâtel has gone from being “at the top of the class” to being “relegated”. What a disillusionment!

Repetition, with very rare exceptions, is absolutely useless

“Are our students less good than elsewhere? This question from the journalist to the representative of the cantonal authority reveals the tenacious paradox surrounding the problem of school failure. As the thermometer should not be confused with the disease, it is advisable not to consider repetition as the remedy for school difficulties.

For we have known for a long time, with studies and surveys to back it up, that repetition, with very rare exceptions, is absolutely useless. Worse, the earlier in a student’s schooling it occurs, the more likely he or she is to fail a second time, thus compromising his or her future. These findings, in spite of all the beliefs that have been anchored since the dawn of time in the minds of many parents and teachers. This is the reason why several countries have abolished it.

However, it would be wrong to blame only the actors mentioned above. The chronic lack of means granted to pedagogical support, the lack of teacher training, an abstruse curriculum, the absence of teamwork within cycles, the lack of coherent follow-up of students throughout their school career explain this sad ranking.

The fight against school failure is not only a daily struggle, it is a pedagogical posture. A societal vision and an awareness of the role of the school in this republican pact.

The ability to follow a schooling without failure depends on different factors, the two main ones being intellectual and social. If the student chooses neither his IQ nor his parents, the state chooses its school policy and, through significant social benefits, partly its population. La Chaux-de-fonds is a perfect example with its record number of special classes. Once again, the self-proclaimed progressive left has jeopardized an institution by its egalitarian dogmatism.

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