The diploma from ENA, a school focused on public administration, has in practice been a ticket to the higher levels of French politics for several generations. The school was founded in 1945 by Charles de Gaulle with the aim of restoring the administration of France affected by World War II. Getting to school was supposed to be in de Gaulle’s conception of things of merit and ability. However, students are most often children from privileged families and the school often faces criticism for this.
The new school is to be more open to diversity, less elitist and in line with the president’s policy to promote “equal opportunities,” Macron said, according to AFP. Social mobility in France is “worse than it was 50 years ago”, Macron quoted BBC News as saying.
High school students who apply for a place at ENA have to prepare very hard. The panel of teachers tests students’ knowledge in the fields of economics, law and international relations in the form of professional debates. It is also quite common for young people to spend two years after high school preparing for prestigious universities, whether technical or ENA. Less than 100 students enroll in the ENA school every year.
A political move?
President Macron mentioned public administration reform and the possibility of abolishing the school as early as 2019, when he avoided questions about the yellow vest protest movement at a press conference, recalls Le Monde.
“It is a political move to divert the attention of the unfortunate French towards the traditional scapegoats: senior government officials. But there are no bad soldiers, only bad generals, “Le Monde quotes a member of the yellow vests.
According to commentators, the current epidemic of covid-19 has highlighted the cumbersomeness of the French administration. France is holding presidential elections next year, and for Emmanuel Macron, public administration reform is one way to engage the general public and gain its votes.
“They want a radical cut, like the founders in 1945, but they worked less on it than their predecessors. The project is not tightened, everyone is solving some of their own. It’s pretty incredible what’s happening now, “Le Monde was quoted as saying by a government official.