There are 500 secondary school students in France who, unlike their peers, have a bit more to worry about more than the recently completed baccalauréat exams. These are the 500 students who have applied for a Fondation Euris scholarship. If they received a mark of 16 or higher out of 20 (highest honours), they may become one of the 20 recipients of a two-year higher education scholarship granted by the foundation’s Executive Committee.
Fondation Euris was established in 2000 by Jean-Charles Naouri, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Euris and Groupe Casino, one of the top five French retail groups. The Group has many well known brands in France such as Monoprix, Franprix, Géant Casino or Cdiscount. An educational foundation operating under the aegis of the Fondation de France, Fondation Euris aims to provide financial support to deserving young scholars from underprivileged backgrounds. Most of the applicants come from priority education or sensitive urban zones. If the assistance provided by the Foundation is mainly financial, it doesn’t stop at the scholarship. A support programme and performance monitoring is created for all the laureates, with an individualized sponsorship for instance.
This commitment from Jean-Charles Naouri has emerged from the bitter conclusion of the French social ladder failure, one of the few figures able to understand the extent of this issue. In France, nearly a third of students are children of senior executives, only one in 10 has working-class parents. Generally, young working-class people are seldom present in selective courses or in masters and doctoral programs.
In terms of number, executives’ children are 40% fewer than working-class children, yet there are three times more of these scholars who attend classes at higher education institutions. .
This barrier to entry has continued to consolidate over the years: the higher the studies are, the less young working-class people are represented. The courses where the gap is most prevalent are preparatory classes for prestigious business schools and engineering schools, where executives’ children are represented eight times more than those from a working-class background.
Contrary to common beliefs, the situation in university isn’t much better. The truth is that if French universities doors are less selective and more widely open to a population from different social backgrounds, the selection is actually made thereafter. The part of French students from modest backgrounds decreases as they move on in their university curriculum. While 15% of undergraduate students are employees children and 13% working-class children, these proportions drop respectively to 10% and 8%.
The Ministry of National Education has been unable to find an efficient solution to this situation, so in order to combat this important issue, Jean-Charles Naouri decided to form an educational sponsorship, placing excellence at the core of its principles. The selection will be made in August, following the results of the baccalauréat exams, by a committee made up of leaders from the worlds of business, civil society and education. The selection criteria are excellence, ambition, motivation and financial need.
By awarding these scholarships, Fondation Euris promotes the values of excellence, merit and equal opportunity in a reflection of its founding chairman, Jean-Charles Naouri, whose exceptional academic success remains a shining example. The retail group president represents a model of the meritocracy coming from the republican school: first prize in the Concours général competitive exams, acceptance to the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure, a PhD programme in mathematics, the elite Ecole Normale d’Administration and Harvard University.
This exceptional academic success was followed by a dazzling career. Jean-Charles Naouri began his career in the senior management public administration, at the finance department. In 1982, he became the Local Government Minister’s Private Secretary, and then of the Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance. In this position, he was for instance responsible for reforms that aimed to modernize the French financial system. In 1987, he created the Euris company and started to invest in various sectors, including retail. By taking control and then the operational management of Casino, a historic retail group in France, Jean-Charles Naouri is a real captain of industry. He developed the group through numerous acquisitions and ensured its international expansion, especially in Latin America. After his academic success and his exceptional professional achievement, Jean-Charles Naouri wished to give back to those who want to echoes his own path.
“I think that the spirit of Fondation Euris and the scholarship can be summed up in the notion of passing on the torch: passing it on to those who deserve it but who have less means at their disposal, in order to help them achieve their goals without holding back. I would like to thank Jean Charles Naouri, with whom I share an unshakable faith in democratic meritocracy. He embodies this idea in his career and his willingness to pass it on.”
– Yves, scholarship winner in 2017-2018
“Knowing that success doesn’t depend on the resources we have, but the means we employ. And even though this ideal is still imperfect, knowing that the Fondation Euris and all its stakeholders have been working since 2000 to enable everyone to follow the path they contemplate extremely touches me.”
– Manon Nagy, scholarship winner in 2017-2018
“Following the baccalauréat, I started the dreaded preparatory classes, attempting to demonstrate that regardless of the origin and social environment, it is possible to succeed as long as you have ambition. And that is when fortune smiled upon me again. That was the year the Fondation Euris intervened in my career to tell me that the only limits were the one I set to myself.”
– Idris Sisaid, scholarship winner 2009-2010
In the spirit of promoting excellence and exceptional achievement, every year’s crop of Fondation Euris scholars is sponsored by an eminent personality. Past sponsors include Jorge Semprun, René Frydman, Georges Charpac, Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, Jean Christophe Rufin, and Cédric Villani.
This year, Fondation Euris has once again received applications from a very high-achieving group of students. The winners will be decided during the summer and a ceremony will be held in Paris next October 23. Since its creation, the Fondation Euris has awarded nearly 600 scholarships to deserving students.