The National Council for Curriculum (1985-1994): The Chaotic Institutionalization of a Reforming Enterprise

By Pierre Clément

In the late 1980s, at a time when secularism is becoming less and less a mobilizing concept and “democratization” seems to have reached a deadlock, the minister of education, Lionel Jospin, launched a process aiming at renovating school curricula. France’s National Council for Curriculum, which was created in 1990, is intended to be the linchpin of this reforming enterprise. Through interviews and by using a survey of existing archives, this article analyzes the bureaucratic turf-fighting between the National Council for Curriculum, the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Education, and the Directorate for Secondary Education. These three branches were at that time fighting for a monopoly with respect to pedagogy. It shows how the progressive codification of an institutional modus vivendi facilitates the initiation of a thorough reform of the secondary school curriculum, resulting in the establishment of a “common base of knowledge and skills.”

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