FRANCE'S education system is failing to reduce social inequalities, one of its principal objectives, according to research.
The study concludes that although more young people now stay on at school, pupils from working-class and middle-class homes opt for courses which widen, rather than diminish, their social differences.
Pierre Merle, professor of sociology at Rennes University, found that between 1985 and 2000 in Brittany the school system reproduced or aggravated inequalites, even though the proportion of young people staying on to take the baccalaureat exam rose from 25 to 83 per cent over this period.
Children of professionals continued to be over-represented in prestigious fields such as science, while there was a "proletarianisation" of classes on technical and vocational courses.
Equality of opportunity is also under attack from middle-class parents who move into the catchment areas of top schools, pushing up local house prices.