“For me, Sciences Po arrived like a hair in the soup”

The director of the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Paris, Richard Descoings, poses on February 27, 2001, in front of the entrance to his establishment. FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

“Questioning republican equality”, “Endangered meritocracy”, “Discount selection”… Rarely has educational reform ignited the debate so much. In the spring of 2001, the procedure for priority education agreements (CEP) developed by the director of Sciences Po at the time, Richard Descoings, and three former students (Cyril Delhay, Madani Cheurfa and Vincent Tiberj) invaded newspapers and the political arena. . The specific path that the prestigious school wants to reserve for students from a priority education zone (ZEP) breaks the taboo of the French competition, of which Sciences Po was the standard.

Decided to “Dismantle the traffic of demagoguery”, the right-wing student union Union Nationale Interuniversitaire seized the administrative courts, in vain. On July 17, 2001, a law, approved by the Council of State, consolidates Sciences Po and leaves it the hand to conduct an unprecedented experiment with seven partner high schools. Twenty years later, they number 166.

Read also Richard Descoings, champion of democratization at Sciences Po

In this electric atmosphere, Ana Stephan presented herself for her admission oral examination on September 10, 2001. Her teachers from Guy-de-Maupassant high school in Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine) preselected the young girl, a brilliant student who arrived from Romania in the age of 8 without speaking a word of French, to give him a chance to integrate the school of the rue Saint-Guillaume where only 0.5% of new entrants have worker parents, 2% employed and 2, 5% traders or artisans.

At the end of the exchange, Richard Descoings submits to the candidate an article from Parisian appeared the day before on the subject. “He said to me: ‘Miss, you realize that The Parisian already announces your victory? Is he right to be so confident?I was totally unsettled, I thought I shouldn’t sound too presumptuous, relate Ana Stephan. I replied that it was better to be careful and this article may not be enough. “ His cheeks flush with red when his examiner tells him that always being careful is the best way to never do anything. “It was only a posteriori that I understood the meaning of his sentence: if Richard Descoings had not encouraged the opening to ZEP high schools, it would never have taken place”, analysis Ana.

“A side of beef”

For Aurélia Makos, in final year at Saint-Exupéry high school in Fameck (Moselle), « Sciences Po arrived like a hair on the soup ” in 2000. “There was an information meeting, we didn’t really know what it was”, she recalls. The emissaries of the school face a few young people who, at best, have only a very vague idea. “There was a poacher side, we could find ourselves presenting the priority education conventions just after information on a Rotary scholarship…, smiles Vincent Tiberj, who now works at Sciences Po Bordeaux. Our mission was not really official since the CEP were created in a corner, without the board of directors and without the teaching community. “

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