New call for condom machines in schools

The head of a French charity fighting Aids has called on the government to install free condom machines in schools to help prevent the spread of the disease. The government also announced it will authorize the use of home HIV test kits.

New call for condom machines in schools

Pierre Bergé, president of Sidaction (Aids action) has asked the Minister of Education to take steps to make sure condoms are freely available in Lyceés and colleges across France.

“I ask the government, when are we finally going to have free condoms in schools? And when we are going to have proper sex education for Aids?,” Bergé told RTL.

The charity's president is not the first to demand contraceptives be freely available to youngsters in French schools.

The idea was first put forward as far back as 1992, and in 2006 a government circular proposed the installation of vending machines in schools, but it has not been widely implemented.

Where machines have been installed in schools, pupils are often required to pay for them.

“Today in some schools, if a teenager wants a condom, they have to go and ask the nurse.  That’s an easy thing to do, as you can imagine,” said Bergé sarcastically.

Vincent Peillon, the Minister of Education appears to be onside, and has accepted that France “needs to find a way to do better” on the issue of youngsters accessing contraceptives.

However, not all school health workers are convinced, and some believe free distribution of condoms would simply play into the hands of school trouble makers.

“We often see the school yard littered with condoms that have been used as water bombs,” a school nurse called Martine told Europe1 radio.

She believes going through a school medical professional is still the best way for youngsters to get hold of contraceptives.

“The students never read how to use a condom. We are able to show them,” she added.

Some in the teaching profession also doubt the worth of the machines.

The headteacher of one Paris school with a condom machine told Le Figaro: “The usefulness of these machines is limited. We hardly ever need to restock them because students dare not buy them on school premises.”

Home test kits authorised

Another measure to battle the spread of Aids that the French government announced it will implement is the introduction of HIV test kits that can be used at home.

There are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 living in France who are infected with HIV but have no idea. This group of people are in turn believed to responsible for 70 percent of new cases of HIV each year.

France's National Council of Aids says home test kits could prevent 400 new infections each year.

The country's Health Minister Marisol Touraine gave the green light on Friday to authorize the use of the home kits.

It is expected they will soon be available to buy just as in the United States.

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‘Section internationales’: How do France’s bilingual secondary schools work?

For foreign parents in France looking at secondary school options for their children one option to consider is the bilingual 'international sections' in certain state schools. But how do they work?

'Section internationales': How do France's bilingual secondary schools work?

What is an ‘international section’

Essentially international sections in French secondary schools allow students to learn a modern foreign language, such as English or German in much more depth than a standard state secondary. These sections also facilitate the integration of foreign students into the French school system.

There are about 200 ‘International’ establishments (primary schools, colleges and high schools) around France offering international sections in 16 languages.

Most are state run, so for many foreign families they are a much cheaper alternative to private schools, though it should be noted that some of the international sections are fee-paying.


Even state establishments can charge for enrolment into their international sections. Fees are usually in the region of €1,000 to €2,000 per year (although that’s still cheap compared to somewhere like the American school of Paris which charges between €20,000 and €35,000 a year)

American and British sections are particularly popular – and, as a result are usually the most expensive, while less-popular German sections are less costly. 

Why do they exist?

These sections are ideal for the children of immigrant families, as well as those where one parent is of foreign origin. Syllabuses are set up and developed by French educational authorities and those of the partner country.

In addition to lessons dedicated to modern languages, students benefit from lessons in another subject given in a foreign language. The international sections promote the discovery of the culture and civilisation of the countries associated with the section.

Top tips for raising a bilingual child in France

What languages are available?

According to the government website, 19 languages are available. But that’s not strictly accurate as it then lists American, British and Australian as separate ‘languages’, along with Portuguese and Brazilian. It’s more accurate to say these establishments offer education in 16 languages.

It’s more accurate to say that there are 19 “sections”, dedicated to learning with a linguistic and cultural education slant in favour of the following nations/languages:

American, Arabic, Australian, Brazilian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Franco-Moroccan, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian.

In total, there are two Australian schools, 20 American ones, over 50 British schools – most in Paris and the Ile-de-France (Versailles is very popular)

So, what’s studied – and what qualifications do you get?

As well as usual collège-level classes in core subjects, such as maths, history and the sciences, students have four hours of classes in the language, including literary studies, of their choice.

From troisième (age 14), an additional two hours of classes per week cover that country’s history and geography and moral and civic education – the latter is replaced by maths for those studying in Chinese sections.

They can obtain the diplôme national du brevet with the mention “série collège, option internationale”. The dedicated brevet includes two specific tests: history-geography and foreign language.

At lycée, students study four hours of foreign literature per week, as well as two hours of history-geography in the language of the section (maths for the Chinese section) as well as two hours of French as they study towards an OIB (option internationale du bac), often at the same time as a standard French bac.

How to enrol

The first step is to contact the collège you wish your child to attend. This should take place no later than January before the September rentree you want your child to go to the collège.

If you live in France, and your child is attending an école primaire or élémentaire, you should do this in the January of the year they would move up to collège.

Be aware, that some schools require potential students to pass a language test – written and oral – before they can enter an international section. A child wishing to enter sixth grade must be able to read books of the level of Harry Potter in English, to enter the international school of Sèvres’ British section, while another has said that only 20 percent of candidates achieve the grade that would allow them entry into an international section.

Find a school

You will find sections internationales de collège at educational academies across the country. For a full list, with contact details, click here.