Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Romance Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Charlotte Daniels


The baccalauréat exam has played a significant role in the lives of French high schoolers for more than two centuries. Not only does the exam determine a student’s eligibility for university, it is a long-standing national tradition and an important aspect of French identity. The baccalauréat consists of a core curriculum and a choice of specialties, all of which prepare students for the exams that they will take in their last two years of high school. In 2018, Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer announced a reform to the baccalauréat that would drastically alter the content and structure of the exam. Blanquer’s reform offers students a wider variety of specialties and in doing so hopes to eliminate the supposed hierarchies which have historically valued sciences over other subject matters. This reform revolutionizes the system while simultaneously remaining deeply rooted in tradition. While Blanquer’s reform introduces changes to the core curriculum and an entirely new list of specialties, it preserves other aspects of the French education system, particularly the mandatory study of philosophy. This thesis examines the contrasting novelty and tradition of Blanquer’s baccalauréat. In order to understand the intent and implications of his reform, this thesis studies a series of historic reforms, provides a detailed explanation of Blanquer’s changes, and finally discusses a selection of anonymous survey responses concerning its potential impacts. In discussing these survey responses, I highlight three main themes: (1) hierarchies and freedom of choice, (2) collectivity and individuality, and (3) the role of nationalism in the baccalauréat.