End of era as French go back to basics

France

The education minister Francois Fillon has called time on 15 years of "child-centred" education in France as he unveiled reforms that aim to provide "a common base of skills" for all children.

The first measures in Mr Fillon's landmark 14-point Bill reshaping the schools system, which he presented to the cabinet on Wednesday, come into force in September.

But although the new laws were drafted after a vast public consultation, there is already some opposition, notably to the minister's plans to remodel the school-leaving exam, the baccalaureat, introducing continuous assessment for some subjects.

President Jacques Chirac promised to reform the school system in his 2002 re-election campaign. A subsequent consultation and inquiry in 2003 pointed to a demand for pupils to master basic skills from an early age (TES, November 5, 2004).

The reforms aim to reduce failure, ensure all pupils get at least a minimum qualification and raise the percentage completing higher education from 35 per cent today to 50 per cent by 2015.

All pupils will have to master a common base of French, maths, computer techniques and a foreign language, plus a "basic understanding" of the environment and citizenship.

There will be regular assessments throughout school; improved remedial support where needed; more vocational learning; and, to counter school violence, more special classes for disruptive pupils.

The Bill also contains plans to reform teacher training. Teacher- training colleges will be integrated with universities, and the trainers will need experience of university or classroom teaching - not always now the case.

www.loi.ecole.gouv.fr

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