- Classe Préparatoire aux Grandes Écoles
The classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (CPGE), commonly called classes prépas or prépas, are a two-year cursus extensible to three-years, acting as a prep course with the main goal of training undergraduate students for enrollment in a
Grande École. The "Grandes écoles" of France are higher education establishments aside the mainstream framework of the public universities. They include sciences & engineering schools, business schools, specific humanities schools, but include neither medical institutes, nor architecture institutes nor law institutes. They are generally focused on a single subject area, such as engineering or business, have a moderate size, and are often quite selective in their admission of students. Due to their competitive entrance exams, they are widely regarded as a prestigious cursus by students, and traditionally have produced most of France's scientists and executives.
In a given year, 800000 people are born in France, and 480000 pass the Baccalaureat, and [http://media.education.gouv.fr/file/42/2/2422.pdf 75000] of them are admitted in CPGE [http://www.polytechnique.edu/page.php?MID=29] .Among those undergraduate students, 47,000 of them follow prep courses for entrance exams into sciences & engineering schools, 16,000 of them for entrance exams into business schools, 11,000 of them for entrance exams into humanities schools.
Admission to the CPGE is usually based on performance during the last two years of high school, called Première and Terminale. The CPGE are located within high schools but pertain to tertiary education, which means that each student must have passed successfully their
Baccalauréat(or equivalent) to be admitted in CPGE. Each CPGE receives the files of hundreds of applicants worldwide every year during April and May, and selects its new students under its own criteria (mostly excellency). A few CPGE programmes, mainly the private CPGEs (which account for 10% of CPGEs), also have an interview process or look at a student's involvement in the community. Lycée Saint-Louis, Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, Lycée Henri IVor Lycée Carnot, Lycée du Parcand Lycée Sainte-Geneviève ("Ginette") are among the best known CPGEs.
Organization of CPGE
CPGE exist in three different fields of study: Science and Engineering, Business, and Humanities. All CPGE programs have a nominal duration of two years, but the second year is sometimes repeated once.
The oldest CPGEs are the scientific ones, which can only be accessed by scientific Bacheliers. The different tracks are the following :
* MPSI ("Mathematics, Physics and Engineering Science") in the first year, followed either MP ("Mathematics and Physics") or PSI ("Physics and Engineering Science")
* PCSI ("Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering Science"), followed PC ("Physics and Chemistry") or PSI ("Physics and Engineering Science")
* BCPST1 ("Biology, Chemistery, Physics and Earth Sciences") followed by BCPST2
* PTSI ("Physics, Technology, and Engineering Science"), followed by PT ("Physics and Technology")The classes which especially train students for admission to the elite Écoles Normales Supérieures or
Ecole Polytechniquehave an "*" added to their name, e.g. MP*.Both the first and second year programmes include as much as sixteen hours of mathematics teaching per week, ten hours of physics, two hours of philosophy, two to four hours of (one or two) foreign languages teaching and two to three hours of minor options: either SI, Engineering Industrial Science, Chemistry or Theoretical Computer Science (including some programming using the Pascal or CaML programming languages, as a practical work). With this is added several hours of homework, which can rise as much as the official hours of class.
In scientific CPGE, the First year of CPGE is usually called the 'Math Sup' - or Hypotaupe - (Sup for "Classe de Mathématiques Supérieures", superior in French, meaning post-high school), and second year 'Math Spé' - or Taupe - (Spés standing for "Classe de Mathématiques Spéciales", special in French). The students of these classes are called Taupins.
CPGE which are focused on economics (who prepare the admission in business schools) are known as "Prépa HEC" and are split in two parts ("prépa HEC spe mathematics" , generally for those who graduated the baccalaureat S and "prépa HEC spe éco" , for those who were in the economics section in the lycée.). The students are called épiciers ("grocers"). The most famous of those business schools are HEC School of Management, ESSEC, ESCP-EAP, EM Lyon, EDHEC, Audencia Nantes, EM Grenoble, ESC Toulouse and Euromed Marseille Ecole de Management which propose a Master degree and an MBA.
Literary and Humanities CPGE
The literary and humanities CPGEs have also their own nicknames, Hypokhâgne for the first year and Khâgne for the second year. The students are called the khâgneux. These classes prepare for schools such as Écoles Normales Supérieures, Ecole des Chartes, and sometimes Sciences Po.
Life in a CPGE
The amount of work required of the students is exceptionally high. In addition to class time and homework, students spend several hours each week completing exams and 'colles' (very often written 'khôlles' to look like a Greek word, this way of writing being initially a khâgneux joke). The so called 'colles' are unique to French academic education in CPGEs. They consist of oral examinations twice a week, in math, physics, French and the foreign languages, usually English and Spanish. Students, usually in groups of three, spend an hour facing a professor alone in a room, answering questions and solving problems. In CPGE littéraires (humanities), the system of 'colles' is a bit different. They are taken every quarter in every subject. Students have one hour to prepare a short presentation that takes the form of a French-style dissertation (a methodologically codified essay, typically structured in 3 parts: thesis, counter-thesis, and synthesis) in history, philosophy, etc. on a given topic, and that of a commentaire composé (a methodologically codified commentary) in literature and foreign languages; as for the Ancient Greek or Latin, they involve a translation and a commentary. The student then has 20 minutes to present his work to the teacher, who ends the session by asking some questions on the presentation and on the corresponding topic. 'Colles' are regarded as extremely stressful, particularly due to the high standards expected by the teachers, and the subsequent harshness that may be directed at students who do not perform adequately. But they are important in as much as they prepare the students, from the very first year, to the oral part of the competitive examination, reserved to the happy few who successfully pass the written part.
When a student repeats his second year, he gets then the status of cinq demi ("five halves"), for he was only a trois demi ("three halves") during his first second year, and un demi ("one half") in his first year. The explanation behind those names is that the most coveted engineering school is the
Ecole Polytechnique, nicknamed the X (as the mathematical unknown). In French, a student is said to integrate a school when they are allowed to enroll in it. A student is called a 3/2 if he integrates the Ecole Polytechnique between his first and second year of preparatory class since the integral of x from 1 to 2 is 3/2. The same idea is valid for "cinq demi", since the integral of x from 2 to 3 is 5/2. Students in their first year are also called "bizhuts", and in their second year, "carrés" ("squares"). Students enrolled in their second second-year are also called "cubes" (or Khûbes), and a few turn to "bicarrés" for a third and final second-year. These terms probably stem from repeated attempts at applying to "X" ( Polytechnique), yielding x2 and x3. Some ambitious professors encourage their top students to eschew admittance to other prestigious schools in order to try their hand at X one more time... Despite this high standard, the 47 000 students in scientific CPGE must face the fact that they won't all go to the Ecole Polytechnique. The renowned engineering schools Centrale Paris, Supélec, École nationale supérieure des mines, École nationale des ponts et chaussées, École nationale supérieure des télécommunications, Supaéro, École nationale supérieure d'arts et métiers, or École spéciale des travaux publics, all member schools of ParisTech are also a proud goal to obtain for these students.
The students of CPGE are also matriculated in universities, and can rejoin college in case of failure of their grandes écoles ambitions or if they just do not wish to become engineers and feel not able to pass the Écoles Normales Supérieures competitive examinations. The ratio of students who failed to enter grandes écoles is low in the scientifics and economics CPGE, but high in humanities, for the only Grandes Écoles aimed in these classes are the Écoles Normales Supérieures.
Recruitment of teachers
Traditionally, primary teachers were educated in Ecoles Normales and secondary teachers by the Agrégation examination. The situation has been diversified by the introduction of the lower level CAPES examination for secondary teachers and more recently by the institution of Instituts Universitaires pour la Formation des Maîtres. University teachers are recruited by special commissions. However many of the successful candidates still have the Agrégation qualification and a large number have been trained at the Ecoles Normales Supérieures.
Education in France
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