Education: Exams for Sale

It was the day before France's dreaded college entrance exams. Timid, tense young Elaine Chollet asked the professor a question: Would he be kind enough to translate this English passage about Captain Forester? The teacher became agitated, hurriedly dismissed the class. That passage, he knew—but how did the student know?—was on one of the papers.

Next day, long before 8 a.m., streets on the Left Bank were crowded with 33,000 students ready for their bachots. They milled around the historic lycees, waiting for the doors to open on their first exam (French Composition and Literature). But the doors stayed stubbornly shut. Officials...

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