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EDUCATION

Education minister seeks lessons in Finland

French Education Minister Luc Chatel said Wednesday he believed France had a lot to learn from the Finnish school system, which for years has outperformed other European nations in international rankings.

“There are a number of practices that work here which we can transport,” he told AFP while visiting the Itaekeskus school in eastern Helsinki.  

Finland’s school system was judged to be the world’s best in 2006 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s PISA study, and in 2010 it was still the only European country to hit the top five after being displaced in reading skills by Asian countries.  

“It’s useful, since we (in France) do not have such good results, to gain inspiration from good practices,” said Chatel.  

After listening to a presentation by teachers at the Finnish school, Chatel said he was impressed by how multi-faceted Finnish teachers’ roles were and how much authority they had to shape the national curriculum they followed.  

“The mission of teachers here encompasses not just instruction, but also support for study and pedagogical work, and that’s very interesting,” he said.

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EDUCATION

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.

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