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In France, the agrégation (French pronunciation: [ae?asj]) is a competitive examination for civil service in the French public education system. Candidates for the examination, or agrégatifs, become agrégés once they are admitted to the position of professeur agrégé. In France, professeurs agrégés are distinguished from professeurs certifiés recruited through the CAPES training. The agrégés are usually expected to teach at high schools (lycées) and universities, while the certifiés usually teach in junior high schools (collèges), although there is a significant overlap.
The examination may require more than a year of preparation. The difficulty and selectivity (quota) vary from one discipline to another: there are about 300 such positions open each year for mathematics alone, but usually fewer positions are made available for humanities and social sciences (for example, 61 positions for philosophy were offered in 2018) and perhaps only one seat in some rarely taught foreign languages such as Japanese.
In addition to the vast majority of agrégés teaching in lycées, some agrégés teach in the preparatory classes to the grandes écoles or at the university level. Some agrégés teach in regular universities but do not, nominally, do scientific research as other university academics do; the positions are known as PRAG. Some positions (agrégé préparateur, AGPR), including research, exist in the écoles normales supérieures, but they are very few.
The agrégation is typically open only to holders of a five-year university diploma (master's degree) or above. There is also an internal agrégation for professeurs certifiés, but it lacks the prestige of the external one although it remains selective (90 laureate/215 who passed the writing exams/873 who tried the writing exams/2001 candidates in 2010 in History-Geography). The following discusses the external one.
The competitive exam generally consists of a written session (admissibility), composed, for humanities and social sciences, of numerous dissertations and analysis of documents, when most candidates are eliminated.
The remaining candidates then have to go through an oral part (admission), composed of different oral exams in which candidates must demonstrate their ability to prepare and give lessons on any topic within the scope of his discipline. The oral exams provide the opportunity to verify that the candidates possess the appropriate oral skills and have mastered the main exercises of their discipline: for example, in the Agrégation of Classics (French, Greek, Latin), candidates have to translate and comment on classical texts and texts from French literature. It is a way to establish whether candidates are able to fulfill requirements that they are going to need to satisfy if they make the cut.
In most disciplines, the lessons expected extend well above the secondary education level; indeed, the candidate may even have to present a lesson appropriate for the second, third, or even fourth years of specialized courses at the university level. One reason is that the agrégés should be able to teach in special undergraduate sections of high schools, known as preparatory classes to the grandes écoles and very similar in nature to grammar schools, and the level may be far above the normal level of the first or second year of college education.
The agrégation is also used as an unofficial national ranking system for students, giving a fair comparison between students of different universities. That is especially true in the humanities, for which the agrégation is highly selective and supposedly demonstrates erudition of the candidate.
Students of the écoles normales supérieures, as well as graduate students who have just completed their master's degree, often dedicate an entire year of their curriculum to prepare for the agrégation.
Although the both Agrégation are labeled as Agrégation of economics, the Agrégation of economics and social sciences is more oriented towards political economy whereas the Agrégation of economics and management is more oriented towards business economics.
In some disciplines of higher education such as law, legal history, political science, economics, management, there exists an agrégation for the professorship positions, called agrégation de l'enseignement supérieur. In this competitive exam, the candidate also has to give several lessons in front of a committee. Usually there are three lessons, spread over several months, except in economics, where there are only two lessons. The first and the last lessons have to be prepared alone, during eight hours, in a library of basic titles selected by the committee. For the remaining lesson, when it exists, the candidate has a full 24 hours to prepare for the examination, and may use several libraries as well as a team of "helpers" (usually doctoral candidates or fellow candidates, but never full professors).
Some anticonformist sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu have argued that this exam measures a candidate's social connections as much their ability to present a lesson, especially considering the composition of the examining committee.