Lycees are preparing for an influx of musicians, architects, actors and artists as a new partnership between the education and culture ministries substantially increases practical art and cultural courses.
In last year's national lycee consultation, pupils were asked what they would like to learn at school that was not currently on offer. They overwhelmingly opted for some kind of artistic education - to learn to play a musical instrument, to do drama or dance, or make films.
Education minister Claude All gre and culture minister Catherine Trautmann have responded by announcing the first batch of measures designed to "democratise access to arts and culture". From next September workshops of artistic expression will be set up in at least 700 of France's 4,000 lycees, prioritising those which offer no artistic options at all - about 80 per cent. The initiative will start with first-year pupils.
Eventually half of all lycee pupils will be able to take an artistic option, compared with only three per cent at present. Schools will have to consult lyceens about the kinds of projects they want, and will be encouraged to set up partnerships with artistic bodies.
Education offices will sign contracts with local cultural departments to recruit professional artists and students specialised in various fields, which will include architecture and urban space as well as the applied arts, theatre, dance, music, cinema and writing.
An example is the theatre workshop set up last year at the Lycee Jean Jaur s in Montreuil, east of Paris, by a teacher and an actress. Among activities, the 14 teenagers have written texts based on their home town; carried out research in the local library and living history museum; improvised dialogues and songs. The resulting show will feature colour slides and sequences filmed in the town.
The two ministers also have partnership plans for other levels of schooling, including image-awareness at nursery school, musical education in the primaries in liaison with conservatoires and music schools, and two national festivals for choral singing and theatre. Teacher training colleges will introduce specialised initial and continuing art and culture programmes.