In the OECD countries, the educational and professional aspirations of young people aged 15 are heavily affected by social background
In France, as in most OECD countries, access to higher education has expanded widely in recent decades. This development is reflected in young people's educational expectations: in France, when questioned in 2018 in the Pisa survey, almost 80% of pupils aged 15 intended to obtain a higher education qualification.
However, substantial inequalities remained in pupils’ educational ambitions depending on their social background. In France, in 2018, 89% of pupils from wealthy backgrounds intended to obtain a higher educational qualification, compared with 69% of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. These inequalities were observed in all OECD countries.
These differences were not only attributable to lower educational success of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. In fact, even among pupils who were successful at school, the expectations of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were below what they were capable of. On average, among the OECD countries, 28% of good pupils did not plan to undertake further study where they came from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared with only 8% of good pupils from wealthy backgrounds. In France, this was the case for 20% of good pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and 7% of good pupils from wealthy backgrounds.
These differences in educational aspirations depending on social background could be explained by financial constraints, but also by a lack of information on actual cost and higher education prospects. Whilst many pupils aged 15 conveyed ambitious professional aspirations when they had an idea about their future professional life, they did not always know how to realise those aspirations. In France, almost a quarter of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who wished to enter a highly-qualified job did not plan to obtain a higher education diploma.