The French higher education system's response to the call for a preparation for social responsibility

Abstract : The French higher education system's response to the call for a preparation for social responsibility The question preceding the response is somewhat ambiguous. The title suggests that there would be a 'call' to the engineering education that they prepare students for social responsibility. But one question one could ask is: where does this call come from? Another could be: does such a 'call' exist at all in France? This may appear a rather provocative statement, but it is not so far from reality. Indeed, some institutions seem to appeal to the engineers' sense of social responsibility: like the Conseil national des ingénieurs et scientifiques de France (CNISF), which represents the engineering profession, through its code of ethics; or the Commission des titres d'ingénieurs (CTI), the regulatory body of the curriculum, through its guidelines; or the trade unions CFDT, which have sought to define what the teaching goal could be of an engineering education that takes into account the question of social responsibility. But, this call is hardly audible: the CNISF code of ethics has no procedures in place for reinforcing its ethical code, and the great majority of French engineers are not aware of its existence; the CTI's guidelines do not have the power to make specific changes to a program, but only to put forward recommendations; and the CFDT document was conceived as a tool for reflection, and did not lead to anything concrete. Nevertheless, proposals do exist in engineering education to broaden the students' scope, and give them a better understanding of the relationship between technology and society. Courses in literature, philosophy, law and economics have been introduced since the XIXth century. But, on the one hand, there has been much discourse on the subject of engineers' social responsibility, and on the other hand, there has been teaching that contributes towards a greater social understanding by students. But the relationship between the discourses and the teaching practice is tenuous. It is therefore difficult to talk about "the response to a call". But, as proposals have existed and changed throughout history, this paper will try to explain their evolution in the time. In the first section: we will describe the socio-historic context of engineering education in France (1); present some characteristics of the French education system (a); and explain the difficulty of setting up an overview of the teaching of social responsibility because the concept is extremely broad (b). In the second section: we will show that the question of enhancing social responsibility is an old one, although institutions like CNISF or CTI have only stressed it fairly recently; and will explain three aspects of the response's evolution. The first aspect, ideological, is an analysis of the evolution of the terms used in the debate on social responsibility over the last century. The second aspect, institutional, will focus on the formalization of the first courses and complementary programmes outside the curriculum which will later on be integrated into the curriculum and which will contribute in some schools to the creation of dedicated teaching departments. The third aspect, structural, will focus on the way in which engineering education has created various organizations bringing together schools with common interests, a central question being fist the broad field of non-technical education and more recently the focus on humanities and social responsibility.
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Christelle Didier, Antoine Derouet. The French higher education system's response to the call for a preparation for social responsibility. International Workshop "Preparing for Social Responsibility. Teaching ethics, peace and sustainability to students in science and engineering, 3-TU Centre for ethics and technology; Delft University of Technology, Department of Philosophy; Aalborg University; Darmstadt University of Technology; University of Hamburg, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Center for Science and Peace Research (ZNF), Oct 2010, Delft, Netherlands. ⟨halshs-00768470⟩



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