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In France, the agrégation (French pronunciation: ​[aɡʁeɡasjɔ̃]) is a civil service competitive examination for some positions in the public education system. The laureates are known as agrégés. A similar system exists in other countries.

There are actually two different agrégations: an agrégation for secondary education, leading to the position of professeur agrégé, and an agrégation for professorships in some disciplines of higher education.

Secondary education

The main agrégation, and the better known, is for secondary education; it leads to the position of professeur agrégé. Its difficulty and selectivity could vary between disciplines: there are about 300 such positions open each year in mathematics, but a few dozen in philosophy, and perhaps one in some rarely taught foreign languages such as Japanese. The professeurs agrégés are a higher category of teachers compared to the professeurs certifiés, recruited through the CAPES. In theory, the agrégés should teach in high schools (lycées) and perhaps even in university-level classes, while the certifiés teach in junior high schools (collèges), though there is significant overlap.

In addition to those teaching in normal sections of lycées (the vast majority), some agrégés teach in the preparatory classes to the grandes écoles. Finally some agrégés teach in normal universities, but do not, nominally, do scientific research as normal university academics do; these positions are known as PRAG. Some similar but temporary positions (agrégé préparateur, AGPR), including research, exist in the écoles normales supérieures, though these are obviously very few and very hard to obtain.

The agrégation is normally open only to holders of a 5-year university education (master) or above. Due to the difficulty of the competitive exam, its preparation often takes a full additional year at the university, for the so-called external agrégation. There also exists an internal agrégation for professeurs certifiés, though it lacks the prestige of the external one. The following discusses the external one.

The competitive exam generally consists in a written part (admissibility) where most candidates are eliminated, followed by an oral part (admission) where the candidate must demonstrate his or her ability to prepare and give lessons on just about any topic within the scope of his discipline. The oral exams are the occasion to verify that the candidates are at ease in the main exercises of their discipline : for example, in the Agrégation of Classics (French, Greek, Latin), candidates have to translate and comment on classic texts and texts from French literature. This is a way to establish whether the candidates are able to fulfill requirements that they are going to need to satisfy if they pass.

In most disciplines, the lessons expected extend well above the secondary education level; indeed, the candidate may even have to present a lesson appropriate for the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th years of specialized studies at a university. One reason for that is that the agrégés should be able to teach in special undergraduate sections of high schools known as preparatory classes to the grandes écoles, where the level may be far above the normal level of first or second year college education – though the vast majority of agrégés teach in ordinary secondary education.

The agrégation is also used as an unofficial national ranking system for students, giving a fair comparison between students of different universities. This is especially true in the humanities, where the agrégation is highly selective and supposedly demonstrates erudition of the candidate. The students of the écoles normales supérieures often give up an entire year of their student life to prepare for any potential question.

List of agrégations for secondary education

Enseignement des langues vivantes
  • Agrégation d'allemand (Agrégation of German language)
  • Agrégation d'anglais (Agrégation of English language)
  • Agrégation d'arabe (Agrégation of Arabic language)
  • Agrégation de chinois (Agrégation of Chinese language)
  • Agrégation d'espagnol (Agrégation of Spanish language)
  • Agrégation d'hébreu moderne (Agrégation of Hebrew language)
  • Agrégation d'italien (Agrégation of Italian language)
  • Agrégation de japonais (Agrégation of Japanese language)
  • Agrégation de polonais (Agrégation of Polish language)
  • Agrégation de russe (Agrégation of Russian language)
  • Agrégation de portugais (Agrégation of Portuguese language)
Lettres et sciences humaines
Enseignement des sciences naturelles et physiques
Enseignement professionnel et technique
Enseignements artistiques
  • Agrégation d'arts : (Agrégation of arts)
    • option arts plastiques (Agrégation of visual arts)
    • option arts appliqués (Agrégation of applied arts)
    • option histoire des arts (Agrégation of arts' history)
  • Agrégation de musique (Agrégation of music)
Enseignement d'éducation physique

Higher education

In some disciplines of higher education such as law, legal history, political science, economics, management, there exists an agrégation for the professorship positions, called agrégation de l'enseignement supérieur. In this competitive exam, the candidate also has to give several lessons in front of a committee.[1] Usually there are three lessons, spread over several months, except in economics, where there are only two lessons. The first and the last lessons have to be prepared alone, during eight hours, in a library of basic titles selected by the committee. For the remaining lesson, when it exists, the candidate has a full 24 hours to prepare for the examination, and may use several libraries as well as a team of "helpers" (usually doctoral candidates or fellow candidates, but never full professors).

Some anticonformist sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu have argued that this exam measures a candidate's social connections as much their ability to present a lesson, especially considering the composition of the examining committee.

List of agrégations for higher education

  • Agrégation de droit (Agrégation of law)
    • Agrégation de droit privé (Agrégation of private law)
    • Agrégation de droit public (Agrégation of public law)
    • Agrégation d'histoire du droit (Agrégation of legal history)
  • Agrégation de science politique (Agrégation of political science)
  • Agrégation d'économie (Agrégation of economics ; not to be confused with the agrégations for secondary education that are the agrégation de sciences économiques et sociales and the agrégation d'économie et de gestion)
  • Agrégation de gestion (Agrégation of management ; not to be confused with the agrégation for secondary education that is the agrégation d'économie et de gestion)

See also


Further reading