Less than a decade ago, hundreds of places remained unfilled in the old ecoles normales, which trained primary teachers, and as recently as the early 1990s the education ministry had problems finding the 30,000 students needed each year to renew the teaching force. But now, three years after reform of the teacher-training system, entrance exams have become ruthlessly selective to cope with the unprecedented numbers of candidates.
High youth employment is undoubtedly one reason why so many are clamouring to teach. Another is that with the expansion of higher education, more young people have the necessary qualifications. Students taking up teaching must have a licence, the equivalent of a bachelor's degree.
Also, teacher-training reforms introduced in 1991 by Lionel Jospin, the current socialist presidential candidate, have increased the status and pay of primary teachers.