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SECURITY

‘Mock attacks’: How France will boost security at schools

Schools around France have been sent a list of guidelines focussing on how to improve security, including teaching children lifesaving skills that will be introduced at the start of term in September.

'Mock attacks': How France will boost security at schools
Photo: AFP

The country’s interior and education ministers have put their heads together to come up with a series of measures to boost security in schools with the country on high alert for more terror attacks.

“The recent attacks and the context of the terrorist threat means heightened vigilance is required,” said a joint statement from Bernard Cazeneuve and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

The statement highlights the “top priority” given to schools, which were the subject of a particular threat by Isis in December last year.

Isis’s francophone propaganda magazine Dar al Islam called for Muslim parents to pull their children out of French schools, and to kill teachers who teach French principle of secularism.

And in January this year several Paris high schools were evacuated due to bomb threats. Although the calls turned out to be hoaxes police were forced to take them seriously.

Who is sending terror threats to Paris's high schools?Photo: Twitter/HPouxx

From the start of the new term pupils aged 14 upwards will be taught basic life-saving measures and school chiefs will be asked to carry out mock attack exercises and to secure “vulnerable areas”.

Isolated entrances into schools or exposed areas need to be secured, the ministries warn and schools have asked to identify what works needs to be done.

“Special attention will be paid to the areas around schools to strengthen the supervision of the streets… and to avoid any congregating that might put the students’ safety in jeopardy.

As part of the prevention three exercises will be organised during the school year, with the first one to be carried out before November and will cover what to do in the event of an attack.

Ministers want to improve “the ability of schools to react and not be taken by surprise”.

A text messaging alert system that will wanr pupils and staff will also be tested at the start of the new term.

School headteachers have been asked to hold meetings with parents to explain to them the new security measures.

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SCHOOLS

‘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.

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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.

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