REPORT: Shutting Down the Education in France

By Maeva Chargros

On February 5, 2019, a small secondary school hosting around 250 students was shut down for 24 hours. This was exceptional for multiple reasons: rarely do all teachers of a school in France choose to strike, and rarely do they receive a massive and unanimous support from the parents of the students, as well as from the local authorities. On this cold winter day, though, the junior high school Papire Masson was empty and teachers, parents and the mayor of the little town of St-Germain-Laval, Alain Berouda, gathered in front of its doors.[1] Known only by the few hundreds of people who actually need it, this secondary school recently learned that despite welcoming three more students and being part of the “inclusive education” framework, it would receive 58 hours less than the previous years from September 2019 onward. This very local situation has, unfortunately, repercussions at both national and European levels, besides directly impacting the lives of about 250 students between 11 and 15 years old.

The decision of allocating less hours to a high school that has among the best results of the Loire department at the national exam called “Brevet des écoles” (equivalent of GCSEs in the British system) can seem slightly puzzling at first sight. It becomes absolutely incomprehensible when realising that this secondary school has already the lowest number of hours allocated among schools with similar numbers of students in the department. The regional education authority of the Lyon (Académie de Lyon) area probably just made a regrettable mistake that will be rectified after the planned meeting between the regional school inspector, Mr Batailler, and representatives of the Papire Masson secondary school on February 19, 2019. At least, this is what teachers, parents and students altogether are hoping for, given what such a disastrous change would entail: a total of five teachers would not come back to teach in September 2019; two classes of 4th and 3rd grades (UK equivalent: Years 9 and 10) would disappear, leading to an increase of 50% of the number of students per class; projects involving students of all levels would have to be terminated; teachers would have to travel from one school to another across the entire department or even regional area. These are just a few examples of substantial consequences that can be explained in tangible ways. Less easy to observe is the impact on the quality of teaching, the ability of teachers to properly include and involve in their lessons students with disabilities coming from a nearby specialised institution, the difficulties to maintain this school’s overall excellent results at the national exam and to ensure all students get equal chances in their orientation choices. The latter is a chronic feature of the education management system in France; it recently sparked the interest of a high school student, Marie Ferté, who competed at the Concours de Plaidoiries in Caen (Normandy, France). Continue reading “REPORT: Shutting Down the Education in France”

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Respect and tolerance are not what we need for Europe’s diversity

Voltaire (http://voltaire.nlr.ru)
Voltaire (http://voltaire.nlr.ru)

Michiel Luining ᅵmichiel.luining@gmail.com

Today multiculturalism is said to have failed in Europe. We can recall the statement made by Angela Merkel in 2010 on the topic. Soon after, David Cameron also declared the end of multiculturalism, and similar remarks emerged in political debates in the Netherlands as well as in other countries. In recent times we have seen an increase of nationalist movements many of which are fuelled by anti-Islam and anti-immigrant sentiments. Simultaneously, we witnessed growing feelings of resent within immigrant and minority populations towards their host countries and cultures. All in all, it would seem that we are experiencing a downward spiral.

In response to this, idealistic calls have been made in favour of respect, tolerance, consensus and mutual understanding in order to transcend this last decade’s polarising cycle. However, these calls are wrong. Respect is not what we need, and neither are the current thoughts on tolerance. In order to sustain a democratic and tolerant society, we need to get rid of the naive mindset that lies beneath such claims; those that fail to consider realistic solutions and opportunities that are vital for a free society. In part, the problem lies in the multicultural categorisation that has taken place, and further still in the way is the concept of tolerance that is being used by many people noways.

“Respect is not what we need, and neither are the current thoughts on tolerance….”

Although it is difficult to discuss multiculturalism (as the word has many meanings), its basis lies in identifying groups based on political considerations – typically by ethnicity – in order to remove stigmatisation and exclusion in relation to such groups. Today, instead of accepting difference as an integral part of (considerate) co-existence, the liberal multicultural state facilitates rigid differences. Continue reading “Respect and tolerance are not what we need for Europe’s diversity”