French students set to take to streets over planned school reforms

French students and teachers are getting ready to take to the streets on Thursday in protest against the government's planned school reforms, including changes to the final high school exams and university admissions.

French students set to take to streets over planned school reforms
File photo: AFP
Demonstrations, rallies and strikes are planned across the country as students and teachers take a stand against French President Emmanuel Macron's proposed changes to France's education system. 
The action has been prompted by this week's presentation of the government's proposed reforms to the baccalaureate — the final high school exams taken by students before they go to university, with critics saying that students will be forced to make career choices at too young an age. 
Students are also protesting the proposed changes to university access in France, a bill which is currently before parliament. 
High schools in Paris, Marseille, Lille and Lyon are set to take part in the “day of action”, according to student unions, as are students at Jean Jaurès university in Toulouse, Rennes II in Brittany and Jussieu in Paris. 
Demonstrators are set to meet in Paris in front of Jussieu university at 2pm before walking to the Sorbonne, with other events organised in Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg.
And there could be more in other major cities, according to the SNES-FSU union's Secretary General Hervé Christofol.

France to overhaul the baccalaureate in tricky school reformPhoto: AFP

The overhaul of the baccalaureate was an election campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron, with the French leader believing the current system fails to adequately prepare teenagers for university and the modern job market.
Several staff unions including the FSU, CGT, FO, SUD Education, as well as student unions including UNEF, Solidaires, SGL and UNL have come out against the changes.
In addition to forcing students into an important decision too early, those against the move say the ideal of scholastic equality is at risk, since wealthier students will probably be better prepared to navigate the choices now open to them than those in poorer areas. Increased tutoring is supposed to limit that risk, but many educators aren't convinced.
Meanwhile, the bill on access to university is currently before parliament. If it goes ahead it will remove the admissions system for universities and tighten entrance criteria. 
But why does the government want to change the system?
Once in university, roughly 60 percent of students fail to secure their diplomas marking the first three years of study in France.
The proposed reform presented this week, which would halve the number of Bac tests to just five including a new 30 minute oral exam, aims to orientate students toward specific degrees sooner. The three broad subject choices — science, literature or social sciences — would also be eliminated.
French university admissions: Shake-up broaches selection taboo
Photo: AFP
Before their final year students would choose two specific “major” subjects as well as two “minors” alongside the standard curriculum — a system that will sound familiar to American college graduates. And instead of being based purely on results in the final exams, the new Bac grade would incorporate marks and test results obtained throughout the two final years of school.
Even class schedules will change by 2021 if the reforms are passed, with the year now divided into two semesters instead of three trimesters, and the tests spread over several months instead of a single week.
However, despite the “day of action” not everyone is against the changes. 
The SNPDEN union, the largest for high school directors, called the proposals “a good basis for changing the baccalaureate for the better”.


REVEALED: France’s new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

School in France is far from out for summer but the dates have been released for the 2022/23 school year complete with holidays and "bridges". Take a look so you can plan your holidays.

REVEALED: France's new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

It’s the time of year children dislike most – as is traditional, rentrée in France is on September 1st this year, a Thursday, a day after teachers return to the classroom to prepare for the new term.

The 2022-23 school year then ends – 36 school weeks later – after classes on Friday, July 7th, 2023, later than in recent years and just a week before the fête nationale on July 14th.

 “My class will be almost empty the last week, families will have gone on vacation, especially if the tourist prices are considered out of vacation, therefore less expensive,” a  teacher in Paris told Le Parisien.

Another was concerned about the weather at that time of year. “The longer we get into the year, the hotter it gets. They already forecast 35C on May 18th, so on July 8th, I can’t imagine the heat in class,” she said.

School holidays in France have long been divided into three zones. Summer, autumn and Christmas holidays are taken at the same time across the whole of the country, but the winter and spring breaks are staggered according to which zone a school is in.

The educational zones in France are here 


The Ministry of Education has published a calendar planner for the 2022/23 school holidays on its website, showing the holiday periods for all three zones in France.

Image: ministère de l’éducation nationale et de la jeunesse et des sports

The calendar is available to download as a pdf, here

Notably, pupils in Zone A schools – those in Besançon, Dijon, Grenoble, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Poitiers and Bordeaux – face a longer-than-usual summer term, a two-and-a-half month stretch from April 24th to July 8th. This is a longer term than is usually recommended by education experts – longer even than the 10-and-a-half weeks at the same time last year for two zones, which was described as “a marathon” by both families and teachers.

There will be some breaks in that long run of school weeks, however. May Day and VE Day are both on Mondays next year, Ascension is on Thursday, May 18th, with schools traditionally ‘bridging’ the Friday, and Pentecôte holiday is on Monday, May 28th.

On the flipside, pupils in the same zone also get the shortest term on record in the next school year. They return after the Christmas holiday on January 3rd, and break-up for the winter holidays on February 4th.