Education minister Claude All gre has ordered a shake-up at the national institute for educational research, to make its work of more practical use to teachers.
The Institut National de Recherche Pedagogique - which began as the Musee Pedagogique in 1879 - employs some 300 research, technical and administrative staff, mostly in its Paris headquarters.
With a network of more than 1,200 teachers throughout the country, and teams from teacher-training colleges and university research departments, they work on more than 100 permanent multidisciplinary research programme. The institute also has huge library, holds conferences and exhibitions, produces countless publications and receives numerous foreign researchers.
But while researchers originally used to focus on practical investigations at the chalkface, over the years its research topics have become increasingly theoretical. So Mr. All gre now intends the INRP to switch its priorities back to applied research "to improve teaching methods in the classroom", leaving the universities to tackle the theory.
Announcing his plans last week, the minister said the institute must stop "philosophising about the sex of angels" and instead "promote and co-ordinate concrete research connected with schools and teachers".
Educational research needed to be modernised, more rigorous and centred on the classroom, he said. Under the reorganisation, due to start from the new academic year, the institute will work in closer collaboration with the ecoles normales superieures (ENS) in Paris and Lyons - super elite tertiary institutions.
The institute's headquarters share a site with the Paris ENS. As posts become vacant, new personnel will be based in Lyons, and branches of the INRP are planned in future in other French regions.
A new director will have the task of sorting out the necessary changes. He is expected to be Philippe Meirieu, at present professor of education at the University of Lyon II, whom Mr All gre earlier this year appointed to carry out a wide-ranging inquiry into the future of the lycee in French secondary education.