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LIVING IN FRANCE

France is ‘more tolerant than ever’, study into racism finds

Many political headlines from France in recent months have been about the rise of the far-right, but the latest annual survey into attitudes towards race has found that ordinary French people are more tolerant than ever.

France is 'more tolerant than ever', study into racism finds
A demonstrator holds a placard reading "Racism = Death" during a "Suburbs Pride" event near Paris. (Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP)

An estimated 1.2 million people a year are victims of a racist attack in France, but there are less than 1,000 convictions annually for racially motivated crimes, a report has revealed.

“We can see that the institutions are failing to take account of real crime,” Magali Lafourcade, Secretary General of the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’Homme (CNCDH), which published the annual study, said.

Moreover, researchers found that only a small proportion of victims file complaints, for a variety of reasons, notably shame, fear of reprisals, or distrust in the police. 

It is a vicious circle that Lafourcade hopes to combat: “If there are many complaints, many criminal proceedings and many convictions, we can hope that the phenomenon will decrease.”

Despite those figures, France as a nation is more tolerant than ever, the study found.

Since 2008, the CNCDH has been calculating society’s tolerance towards minorities, using a “tolerance index”. In 2022, France scored 68 points on a scale of 100, its highest rating – indicating that racist behaviours and opinions are less tolerated.

“Tolerance has never been so high in our country,” Lafourcade said.

But, the report found that not all ethnic minority groups in France are treated equally. A total 38 percent of French people still consider Islam to be “a threat to France’s identity” – a figure down from 44.7 percent in 2019.

The Roma community is the least tolerated minority group in France, with 45 percent of French people (down from 48.2 percent in 2019) convinced many in the Roma community live off the proceeds of crime. 

The CNCDH has drawn up a list of 12 priority recommendations to reduce racial discrimination in France, advocating education as its main weapon in the ongoing fight against racism.

Measures include better training for school staff and education for digital citizenship, which is seen as “an essential element in the fight against online hate”.

The Commission also recommends human and financial investment by the government and a commitment to “change the way people look at and practice their lives in relation to Roma populations”, and increasing the use of online complaint mechanisms.

The CNCDH has published a report on racism and racial tolerance in France every year since 2008. Its in-depth 2022 study is available as a pdf here.

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EDUCATION

Fees to class sizes – what you need to know about private schools in France

In many countries, private schools are the preserve of the wealthy elite, but France has a wide network of private schools that are well within the financial reach of ordinary families - James Harrington explains more.

Fees to class sizes - what you need to know about private schools in France

The education system in France has its problems – at the start of the new school year some 4,000 teaching posts were unfilled and the government has launched an ‘emergency plan’ for English language lessons – but there’s no doubting there are wonderful schools and wonderful teachers making every effort to ensure children from aged three to 18 get the education they deserve.

However the country also has a sizeable network of private schools and around 15 percent of French children go to a private school. While some are undoubtedly expensive and elite, others are surprisingly affordable and provide an extra option for parents when deciding on  a school for their children.

Here’s what you need to know; 

Different types

There are two types of private school – sous contrat and hors contrat.

Sous contrat schools, of which there are about 7,500 in France, are part-funded by the state – teachers are paid by the Department of Education, for example – but also charge fees. France’s numerous Catholic schools, or regional language schools are usually sous contrat.

Hors contrat schools – which number about 2,500 – must still meet general education requirements but can choose their teaching methods and have no state funding. Private international schools found in most big cities, such as the American School of Paris, are hors contrat, but still follow mainstream teaching methods.

For comparison, there are around 60,000 state schools in France.

Prices

Yes, there are expensive private schools in France. Sending your child to the exclusive Ecole des Roches Private Boarding School, for example, will set you back more than €12,000 a term – not quite Eton or Winchester-level fees, but still well out of the reach of a large portion of the population. But, like Eton and Winchester, they’re not the norm. 

On average, fees for a day pupil – one who goes home at the end of the school day, rather than one who boards at the school – are in the region of around €2,250 a year. Meals are not included, and are generally charged at a slightly higher daily price than at state schools.

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available for less well-off families.

READ ALSO French school canteens to cut cheese course as inflation bites

Boarding and hours

A large number of state and private schools offer Monday-Thursday boarding. It is not uncommon for pupils who excel at certain subjects or sports to attend collèges or lycées some distance from home, and board during the week.

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Daily school hours, meanwhile, are broadly similar, with children generally starting their school day at around 8am and finishing soon after 4pm on school days. Collège and lycée pupils also go into school on Wednesday mornings, and some may have classes on a Saturday, too.

Popularity

Smaller class sizes and a reputation for “better” results means that private schools are increasingly popular. The number of French private schools has increased steadily over the last decade, and now 15-20 percent of pupils go to a private establishment of some form. 

On the whole, private schools tend to do better in results league tables – perhaps in part because of the additional investment from parents, but also because class sizes tend to be smaller, which allows for more one-to-one education. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention mean they may also be a better option for children who struggle in big schools.

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

Qualifications

State schools and sous contrat schools teach to the national curriculum, which leads, in turn, to brevet and baccalaureate qualifications.

In contrast, some hors contrat private schools offer different qualifications, including American High School Diplomas and SATs, British GCSEs and A-Levels, or the international baccalaureate.

Religion

Although many sous contrat schools are Catholic, most readily accept non-Catholic children and are not allowed to indoctrinate the Catholic faith. Hors contrat schools, on the other hand, may include a religious element to their teaching.

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