France: Minister fails to placate pupils

16th October 1998 at 01:00
Pupils at lyc#233;es have grown increasingly angry this week despite conciliatory action by education minister Claude All#232;gre.

Tens of thousands took to the streets on Monday, the protests spreading to more than 50 towns and cities throughout France. Biggest demonstrations included those in Bordeaux, Grenoble, Reims, Nice, Mulhouse, Besan#231;on, Lyon, and Strasbourg.

In Paris, more than 5,000 teenagers marched to the education ministry where representatives met government officials.

The strikes and demonstrations have erupted less than a month into the new school year. Pupils' complaints include overcrowded classes, lack of teachers, too much work, increasing school violence, tatty buildings and obsolete equipment.

The final straw concerned plans for reform announced earlier in the year following a public examination of the lycee which also involved consulting pupils. The young people had expected the new measures to take effect from the start of term and have been disappointed by the delay.

The minister met representatives of the students last week, but despite promises to take immediate measures to improve conditions after the half-term break, the protests increased.

M All#232;gre told pupils the reform would take effect as soon as possible; the curriculum changes, which will result in a lighter workload, are now being finalised and will be introduced at the beginning of November.The minister also instructed chief education officers to talk to delegations of local pupils.

Some 3,000 lyceens marched in Montpellier last week. In addition to the common grievances, pupils in the southern town are upset by the presence of extreme-right National Front members on school governing bodies.

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