A RISING number of French school-leavers is sitting the vocational and technological versions of the final exam, the baccalaureat.
The popularity of practical subjects has also been felt in the traditional general bac, where there has been a decline in those taking the literature option.
A record number of 644,128 candidates is enrolled for this year's baccalaureat, which started on Wednesday.
Most students still take the general bac, the most academic option. This offers a choice between science, literature or economics and social studies.
But those taking technological and vocational bacs are closing the gap, and now account for 46 per cent of candidates.
The general and technological exams entitle successful candidates to enter higher education, but the vocational bac professionnel leads directly to work.
The vocational exam, hich was launched in 1987 with 1,157 candidates, has become increasingly popular; this year enrolments rose by 2.5 per cent, with 110,000 students choosing between 47 specialities. Three of these - accountancy, secretarial skills and business studies - are taken by 44 per cent of candidates. More students are also opting for the technological bac, introduced in 1969. This year, 189,000 are taking it, up 2 per cent on 1999.
But while qualifications for the workplace and for technology are more eagerly sought, literature, one of the three courses in the general baccalaureat, is in decline. It was chosen by only 76,500 candidates this year, down by more than 4 per cent over last year.
This compares with about 98,000 taking economics and social studies, and more than 170,000 taking science, traditionally viewed as the best route to a prestigious career.