Student tutors by the thousands to support newcomers

It is a large-scale initiative, justified by the collateral damage of the health crisis: universities are currently recruiting 20,000 tutors to support their newcomers who, between the start of the school year and the announcement of a move to all distancing after All Saints’ Day, they hardly had time to assimilate the functioning and the requirements of the “university”.

These positions will amplify the effects of tutoring that already mobilized around 30,000 people – employees and voluntary associates – within universities. This time it is mostly peers, “Mainly students who have arrived at least in the third year of the license”, specifies the Ministry of Higher Education, which will “Supporting those who need it most among the 380,000 enrolled in L1 or DUT”.

The Université Bretagne Sud is preparing to hire a number of tutors, including teacher-researchers. “In total, probably around fifty, which will double the number of those already deployed with our own funds in DUT and at the start of the license,” indicates Virginie Dupont, its president. The device is beneficial both for the person accompanying and for the person being accompanied. “

The aim is to limit the dropout that often occurs between the end of the exams and the start of the second semester. A poorly quantified phenomenon, but which could be more marked than usual because of the difficulties in following the courses at a distance. Since January 4, the “facs” have been authorized to welcome first year students in groups of up to ten and upon invitation. But no return to normal is in sight for the moment.

“For peer tutoring to bear fruit, it is important to train tutors”, warns David Oget, associate professor at the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Strasbourg and coordinator of a book on the subject (1). Being a good student is not enough to be able to help effectively. “You have to learn to mobilize a group. Knowing how to take a distanced look at our role as tutor, which does not correspond to the image that the tutored person often has of it, quick to consider ourselves as someone who knows a lot. The goal is not to take the place of the teacher. The tutor’s contribution is above all methodological and psychological. It consists a lot in reassuring, in helping to understand the functioning of the establishment, in answering questions about the professional project ”, observes David Oget.

The new system is also intended to stem a little from the rise in student precariousness which goes hand in hand with the temporary disappearance of a certain number of positions, particularly in the restaurant business, which is now closed. “These jobs are remunerated on the basis of the minimum wage, up to a dozen hours per week”, argues the ministry.

“Creating links between students is always interesting”, comments Yanis Limane, first vice-president of Fage. “But this is not enough to resolve the financial and often psychological difficulties in which many students struggle”, deplores this trade unionist, who continues to demand “A real overhaul of the scholarship system”.

Announced on November 26 by Prime Minister Jean Castex, the tutoring device is in any case slow to become reality and should not be effective at best until February. Autonomous, the universities, which it is up to to put it in place, were occupied by other files, in particular the organization, partly remotely, of the partial end of semester. To date, despite the urgency of the situation, only a tiny fraction of the guardians have taken up their duties.


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