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Reforms set to carry on in hunt for 'weak link'

FRANCE: AFTER a year during which educational reforms came thick and fast, there is likely to be little relief during 1999.

January will start with a national debate on the so-called "weak link" of the education system - the coll ge, or lower secondary school, which marks the end of compulsory schooling.

The coll ge was reorganised only three years ago but where there are debates, reforms follow and changes are expected.

In the summer schools minister Segol ne Royal appointed sociologist Francois Dubet to carry out an audit of 10 schools, which identified a number of problems, including covert selection in the coll ges, which have been officially unstreamed since 1975.

The minister last week unveiled her project "What coll ge for the year 2000?" She promised to introduce the first measures in September, with further changes during the two following years.

Teachers and other staff, parents and even pupils will be able to have their say at about 100 meetings chaired by Mr Dubet around the country in February and March. Topics will include the roles of principals and staff, course organisation, remedial help, curriculum content, mixed classes, and school life and citizenship.

Discussions will also take place in the academies (the locally-based education authorities) and the departmental councils, which are responsible for school buildings. Reports are due for submission in April, in time for ministerial decisions to take effect in September.

The coll ge debate is starting as primary schools and lycees are preparing to introduce their own reforms, with a lighter curriculum, more emphasis on the basics, and more team-working by teachers.

Some of the lycee reforms, which were partially based on consultations with pupils, have already been sped up in response to this October's pupil protests.

Meanwhile, Claude All gre, the education minister, is trying to introduce reforms in other areas including reducing bureaucracy, reorganising the universities and shifting more research from state-run institutions to universities.

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