Demand exceeds supply of state jobs

Jane Marshall

FRANCE. Education offices throughout France have been besieged by tens of thousands of unemployed youngsters hoping to get one of the new government-created posts of classroom assistant.

Within days, far more candidates had registered than were needed for the first 40,000 jobs - as ancillary staff in primary and lower secondary schools - planned to start in December.

The rush followed the announcement by education minister Claude All gre of the decision to create 350,000 jobs in the public and related sectors for 18 to 25-year-olds to meet social, cultural, sporting or environmental needs.

They will be employed on five-year contracts, state-financed to 80 per cent of the minimum wage with the rest coming from employers such as local authorities.

Under an amendment from the National Assembly's commission of cultural, family and social affairs, young people wanting to set up their own companies could be eligible for a subsidy.

Successful applicants for the ministry of education posts - 30,000 for primary schools, 10,000 for lower secondaries - will have to have a baccalaureat and preferably a two-year university diploma. This excludes the 405,000 young unemployed people with no, or too low, qualifications.

M Allegre has left it to schools to work out what help they need, and to put in urgent applications for the assistant-educators - who will supervise pupils, help them with homework, and organise cultural, artistic or sports activities. Some will be employed as part of a new government offensive against violence in schools currently under discussion.

For their 39-hour week they will be paid the national minimum wage, 6,600 francs a month (about Pounds 700).

While he is preparing to hire more workers at the chalkface, M All gre has been giving details of his first plans to "cut the fat from the mammoth" as he has described reducing bureaucracy in the education system.

In an interview in Le Monde, the minister explained that he intends to decentralise administration, devolving more decision-making to lower levels. He plans to cut the number of ministry departments from 19 to 10, and employees from 3,200 to between 2,000 and 2,500.

A new department of administration will organise the transfer of responsibility from the old regime to the new, including setting up a computer system for secondary teacher appointments.

A department of technology will be set up to monitor public research and joint projects with the private sector and to run the state research and development programme. The existing department of evaluation and futurology, which carries out and publishes educational research, will be expanded. Other departments will be merged.

In his interview, the minister also stressed the importance of literacy. He said: "We want to eradicate illiteracy. Reading must become the priority, and we are planning a circular so that teachers will devote half the time to it in the first primary year," he said.

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