French teachers strike over education reforms

French teachers protest education minister’s decision to disregard classical language and history courses

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

French teachers together with trade unions decided to strike on Tuesday over the government’s reforms of the country’s education system.

While teachers marched against French President Francois Hollande's newly introduced reforms, they did not attend classes for one day across France.

One of the teachers who attended to strike said “the way things are looking, Latin is just going to disappear from the curriculum, but these are our roots. And the children like it."

One of the critics, the philosopher and former centre-right Education Minister Luc Ferry said students cannot learn about the European civilization after the reforms. He described the reforms as “scandalous, empty-headed, noxious and partisan."

"It means that Voltaire is optional! That the scientific revolution is optional! Of course we must teach the slave trade, just as we must speak of the Holocaust,” he said.

Although the criticism, the Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “we want to change an education system that reinforces inequalities. We want to improve everyone's level across the board."

An analyst from  the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that “people are often very wary of reform in France, there is a real fear of reform."

Recently, the newly-elected education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, proposed phasing out Latin and Greek languages from the curriculum of 11-15 years old students, and reducing the weight of the history classes, in return focusing on increasing students’ success rates in the international tests.

When Vallaud-Belkacem added that children learn nothing but “vast chunks of France’s cultural heritage,” and defined the critics as “pseudo-intellectuals,” she became the target of her opponents.

Unions defended the older system saying the new system can cause inequalities and class separation between students and schools.

Although 60 percent of the French population did not want any changes in the education system, OECD reports show that the mathematical ability of 15-year-old students decreased from 2003 to 2012.

TRTWorld and agencies