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No let-up in reform battle

FRANCE

JACK LANG, appointed education minister two months ago to bring peace to French schools, is struggling to appease both modernisers and conservatives.

He has calmed the worst of teachers' anger provoked by his dictatorial predecessor Claude Allegre by modifying reforms, obtaining an extra billion francs for education and creating new teaching jobs in parts of the country where teachers and parents had been agitating since February.

But other areas of discontent are already threatening with unions demanding thousands more posts. Four federations called on 250,000 non-teaching school staff to strike last week, while SNES, the biggest secondary teachers' unio, demonstrated at the national assembly during a debate on budgets, and gave notice of a lycee (upper secondary) strike for yesterday.

Lang replaced Allegre in March when protests became overwhelming. A former head of a combined ministry of culture and education, he opened talks with aggrieved teachers but found unions and educationists divided on the programmes he inherited.

Critics claimed his predecessor's reform would lower standards, accusing him of abolishing options such as Latin and Greek in favour of individual pupil aid, and of downgrading literature. Lang made concessions to traditionalists by restoring time devoted to languages and literature.

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