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Culture made compulsory

FRANCE

POETRY, dance, town-planning and food appreciation feature in a five-year plan to turn arts and culture from optional extras into core subjects.

The man with the vision is education minister Jack Lang and he wants to reach all levels of education, starting with nursery and primary schools. The scheme is also backed by the culture, vocational and heritage departments and will encompass music, art, theatre, cinema, dance, literature, architecture, heritage, design and culinary arts.

Mr Lang said his philosophy is founded on the belief that the arts should not be "supplementary to the spirit of the education system". He wants to standardise artistic activities and expand access to culture in schools.

The minister is famous for his love of the arts, but untimely elections thwarted attempts at similar initiatives when he was culture minister in 1983 and when he headed a combined education and culture ministry in the early 1990s.

Now he is calling on primary teachers to organise 20,000 "artistic and cultural project" classes the next school year. At secondary level, the vocational lycee are to organise 3,000 projects.

The cross-curricular projects could involve a play, an artistic movement or an urban development initiative. Schools might, for example, set up choirs or study a specific historical period.

The "arts of taste" will include learning about traditional regional cuisines, flavours, and how to cook.

In five years' time, every pupil should be offered a project during each of the three principal stages of education - primary, coll ge (lower secondary) and lycee (upper secondary).

From next year, summer schools, teacher-training colleges and specialised centres will start introducing initial and in-service courses for teachers to run the classes.

The plan, for which the 2001 national budget provides 263 million francs (pound;26.5m) of new money, will build on existing provision. As well as three hours' weekly compulsory art and music lessons at primary school, and two hours at coll ge, thousands of pupils have joined optional art workshops, school choirs or film studies at the "School at the Cinema",which has already attracted 700,000 of France's 12m pupils.

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