Why French high school students are also out on the streets

The 'yellow vests' might be getting most of the coverage but they aren't the only ones protesting in France at the moment, with French high school students jumping on the bandwagon to vent grievances of their own.

Why French high school students are also out on the streets
Photo: Gérard Julien, AFP
On Tuesday, secondary schools across France were closed or partially closed for a third day as students joined in with the 'yellow vests' in venting their anger at French President Emmanuel Macron's government.
Schools in Versailles, Créteil and Marseille were particularly affected as dozens of schools were disturbed by protests which saw bins set on fire and scuffles with the police were reported. 
Near Paris, police fired tear gas at a group of students who threw stones at them.
So, what exactly are they angry about?
The students oppose the government's recent education reforms of the Baccalaureate and of the lycée (the last three years of secondary school) which are currently being implemented.
The reforms aim to orientate students toward specific degrees sooner and to eliminate the three broad subject choices — science, literature or social sciences. 
Before their final year students will now choose two specific “major” subjects as well as two “minors” alongside the standard curriculum. 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.
Students are also against last year's shake-up of university entrance procedures which they see as being to selective. On top of that, the protesters oppose the government's plans to introduce a national service called the SNU for all young adults by 2026.


“There are many reasons why we're protesting but our anger comes from the same place as the yellow vests and the government has made some really destructive reforms. It's in our interest to be on their side,” president of the UNL student union Louis Boyard told French media.
On Monday, over one hundred lycées were completely or partially blocked and protests sometimes turned violent as protesters vandalised property, threw projectiles at police and set dustbins on fires. Incidents were reported around Paris and in Bordeaux, Pau, Limoges, Dijon, Lyon and Toulouse. In the capital, some schools were disrupted, but none were closed completely.
More student protests are expected this week as unions call for protests on Thursday and Friday with anger against the government also spreading to ambulance drivers, farmers, the building industry and a transport union calling for action. 


Member comments

  1. I agree with the students. As I understand it from local friends, 14 year old students are to select the studies that they want to take in order to pursue their future careers. As on 17 year old told me, her career choice at age 14 is vastly different from the one she now wishes to pursue, and under to new system she would have had to have pursued her original plan.

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France to make period products free for students

The French government said on Tuesday it would make period products free for students, joining a global drive to end "period poverty" - the inability to pay for menstrual protection.

France to make period products free for students
Last year, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free universal access to period products. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP

Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal said that machines containing free tampons, sanitary towels and other period products would be installed in student residences and university health services in the coming weeks.

She added that the government aimed to make period protection “completely free of charge” for all by the start of the next academic year in September.

In November, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all, blazing a trail that inspired feminists and anti-poverty campaigners around the world to also take up the issue of period poverty.

In England, free period products are available in all primary and secondary schools – a move New Zealand said last week it too would implement.

In December, President Emmanuel Macron had promised to also address the issue of period poverty.

Commenting on the plight of homeless women, he noted that “the fact of having your period in the street and to not be able to buy something to protect yourself and preserve your dignity” added to the humiliation they suffered.

The move to make sanitary protection free for students comes amid a growing focus on youth poverty following shock images of food banks being swamped by hard-up students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many students say they are struggling to make ends meet after losing part-time jobs in cafes and restaurants which have been closed for months due to the health crisis.