How France's mobile phone ban in schools will work (or not)

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How France's mobile phone ban in schools will work (or not)
Photo: AFP

From September pupils in France will effectively be banned from using mobile phones in schools. With MPs set to discuss the bill on Tuesday, here's how the law will work, at least in theory.


What does the new bill say?

The article of the new bill related to the ban on mobile phones sets it out quite simply.

"The use of a mobile telephone by a pupil is forbidden in elementary schools (écoles maternelles), primary schools and secondary schools (colleges) with the exception of certain places or certain conditions that are authorized by internal rules.

In other words phones will be banned from classrooms and playgrounds unless needed in the case of an emergency or if they are needed for educational use. But schools may designate an area where pupils can use their phones under certain conditions.

Why is this law being brought in?

For a start because it was an election campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron. And his Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer also backs the move, saying previously: "These days the children don't play at break time anymore, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that's a problem."

But there is also a wish to harmonize the rule across the board. Mobile phones are already banned in theory in classrooms in France, although that ban is regularly flouted pupils admit.

Around half of secondary schools in France have already officially banned mobiles in playgrounds as well as in class so the law will bring the rest of the institutions in line. The government also hopes that by making it a national law rather than just a school rule it will help cut out the disruptive habit. Mobile  phone-loving pupils however might not be put off texting so easily.

READ ALSO: What kind of school in France is the best for my kids?

So is the law needed?

Apart from what the education minister himself said about hoping to encourage children to socialise at break time rather than bury their heads in their phones, teaching unions in France say that mobile phones are still the source of problems in classes.

Philippe Vincent secretary general of the SNPDEN union said mobile phones were still the cause of "significant" disruptions in class whether it was the ring tones, vibrations, pupils texting each other or just browsing the web while the teacher is not looking. Secondary schools naturally have the biggest problem with these kinds of disturbances in class.

There is also the major issue of bullying in schools which experts agree has developed a more sinister form since pupils have had access to mobile phones and social media. But given that much of the online bullying takes place after school hours when pupils will be in possession of their phones, the ban will likely have little impact.

How will it work in theory?

This is where the law runs into a big grey area. There has been talk of schools providing lockers for children to put their phones in during the day, but this option would seem expensive and do schools really have the space?

Another suggestion is some kind of binder that pupils would use to keep their phones which would be held onto by the teachers. Another more radical option schools may opt for is simply to ban pupils from bringing phones to schools.

But schools themselves will be allowed to pursue the option they feel will work best.

"There will be freedom left to the institutions as to the methods they chose," Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said recently.

What punishments will pupils face if they 'break the law'?

Most schools currently confiscate the pupils' phones if they are caught using them and their parents are required to come to the school to pick them up. But again schools will be allowed to decide how to hand out the punishments.

What do parents think?

Peep, one of the biggest parents federations in France is sceptical about the ban.

Not necessarily because they are against it but because members believe it will be difficult to enforce.

"We don't think it's possible at the moment," said the head of Peep, Gerard Pommier previously.
"Imagine a secondary school with 600 pupils. Are they going to put all their phones in a box? How do you store them? And give them back at the end?"


Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2018/05/29 12:45
What about<br /><br />"Imagine a secondary school with >1000 pupils and half of them goes by bus to school. Now school buses go on strike, but unpredictably."<br /><br />I'm right not sure how our kid will return home...

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