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'Bad maths' behind French minister's faulty immigrant claims

Matthew Warren · 29 Jun 2011, 09:23

Published: 29 Jun 2011 10:19 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Jun 2011 09:23 GMT+02:00

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The Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, has been corrected on an assertion he made that 66 percent of the children of immigrant families leave school without qualifications.

The statement was made in an interview with Europe 1 in May, prompting strong criticism from teaching unions and other groups.

The minister repeated the claim in Parliament on 25th May, saying “two-thirds of the children from immigrant families leave school without a diploma.” He urged other MPs to look at the figures from Insee, the national statistics agency.

After pressure from its own unions, Insee yesterday published an analysis of the data. Jean-Paul Caille, a researcher with the organisation, said that 10.7 percent of the children of immigrant families leave school without qualifications.

The figure is 6.6 percent for children from mixed families and 6.1 percent from children from non-immigrant families. Far away from the 66 percent the minister claimed.

It would appear that Guéant’s original claim may have been based on bad mathematics. Adding up the proportions of those failing from immigrant and mixed families gives a total of 17.3 percent.

Taking just the 10.7 percent of children of immigrant families who fail would give a proportion of two-thirds, but this is a misreading of the numbers.

Commentators were quick to condemn the minister’s original assertion. Weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur pokes fun at the minister by wondering whether he would have passed his mathematics Baccalaureat, the exam 18-year olds take at the end of their secondary school education.

Others have been more critical. Serge July, founder of the newspaper Liberation, wrote on RTL.fr that Guéant stirs up issues around immigration because he is in the government to be “the minister in charge of the popular right-wing, to attract those voters who might be tempted by the far-right Front National.”

Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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