French teachers call school boycott day in streaming protest

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French teachers call school boycott day in streaming protest
A protester carries a placard reading "With the shock of knowledge Macron and Attal rearm the private sector" during a demonstration of high school students and teachers in Marseille, southeastern France, on February 6, 2024. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

French teaching unions are calling on parents to keep their children at home on Thursday, as part of a protest against plans to introduce academic streaming into schools.


In protest against 'streaming' (groupes de niveaux), teachers' unions and parent associations are calling on parents to keep their collège (aged 11-15) pupils home on Thursday.

They have named these actions opération collège mort (operation dead school) or opération collège désert (operation deserted school).

Teachers will technically would not be on strike - meaning they can accommodate pupils who could not stay home.

Unions are also calling for demonstrations in front of the entrances of schools, with several expected in the Bordeaux area, as well as in Seine-Saint-Denis and Paris.

The protests are about plans to introduce streaming or tracking of pupils - grouping them according to their academic abilities - for maths and French classes. At present streaming is not widespread in French schools, and the idea is a controversial one, with teaching unions saying that it undermines the principle of equality.

READ MORE: Why 'streaming' in French schools is causing controversy (and strikes)

There will also be a protest at 12pm on Thursday in front of the Prime Minister's residence at Matignon in Paris.

So far, the actions have had varying support depending on the collège.

Last week, 25 Paris-based collèges participated in the opérations collège mort, after an appeal from the Federation of Parents’ Councils (FCPE), French daily Le Parisien estimated.


On March 11th, opérations collège mort saw 97 percent of pupils at the Raoul-Rebout collège in the Indre-et-Loire département absent, and prior to that 50 out of the 627 pupils at the Jacques-Prévert college in the Gironde département were absent during an opération mort on March 8th.

Why are people protesting?

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced plans to introduce streaming in December as part of a choc des savoirs (clash of knowledge) intended to help get mathematics and reading comprehension scores up.

The proposal was formalised in France's Journal Officiel on Sunday, and starting September 2024 6ème and 5ème pupils (the first to years of collège) will be streamed in mathematics and French courses.


The plan has been met with outcry from teachers, teaching unions and parents who fear it will reinforce existing social inequality, with less advantaged students stigmatised and put into lower-level groups.

There are also concerns that sorting will not address greater issues within the school system, namely staff shortages and already overcrowded classrooms.


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