Teachers wooed as elections draw near
TES correspondents review world trends in education this year and look forward to the issues making headlines for 2001
After a year that started tumultuously with the country's powerful teachers' unions forcing the dismissal of education minister Claude All gre, the government is hoping for continuing calm and consensus.
Presidential and legislative elections are barely 18 months away and teachers are an important part of the Socialist Party's core vote. Lionel Jospin, the Socialist prime minister and probable presidential candidate, will therefore be keen to avoid confrontation.
All gre was fired by Jospin last March, although he was a friend of 40 years' standing, after his relationships with the teacher unions had reached a crisis point. His often blunt criticisms of teachers and of the education system, which he called a "mammoth" that needed slimming down, had provoked demonstrations and strikes.
The post of minister for schools, held by the astute but more sympathetic Segol ne Royal, who is now minister for the family, was abolishedin a reform of the ministry which also saw its research responsibilities hived off to a new, separate ministry.
All gre was replaced by the former culture minister Jack Lang, who held the education portfolio in the early 1990s as a former loya follower of the late President Francois Mitterrand.
His political career was thought by many political observers to have ended. But Lang was seen as a safe pair of hands and unlikely to create enemies among an important political group.
Lang has had to endure a barrage of criticism from All gre, his immediate predecessor. Lang has introduced initiatives in sport, art, modern languages and science teaching and regional languages. Lifelong training, technology education and teacher training are under review.
There are also experiments, presided over by a new National Council for Innovation and School Success, to get teenagers who drop out back into the system and to ease the transition between lower and senior high school (coll ge and lycee). But the main aim is to avoid controversy until spring 2002.