International Update

Students Oppose Education Bill

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Tens of thousands of French high school students took to the streets last week for the latest of several protests of an education bill that they believe would harm school systems.

Lyon, France: High school students in Lyon join their counterparts throughout France March 1 in one of several demonstrations against proposed education legislation.
Lyon, France: High school students in Lyon join their counterparts throughout France March 1 in one of several demonstrations against proposed education legislation.
—Jean-Phillipe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images

The demonstrations have taken place over legislation now pending in the upper house of the Parliament. As a result of a Feb. 10 protest, which drew some 100,000 students in big cities across France, Education Minister Francois Fillon withdrew the most contentious provision: halving the number of Baccalaureat exams from 12 to six.

Students feared that a cutback in the end-of-year exams would lead to preferential treatment in college admissions for those who attended elite schools. Under the traditional system, colleges judge students for entry based on their exam scores.

Other provisions of the bill spurred subsequent protests. The students, for example, contend that a measure calling for the creation of a core set of knowledge and skills would squeeze out other subjects, such as the arts.

The government is eager to quell any protests, fearing that they may potentially harm the outcome of a May 29 vote by the French people who are being asked to ratify the European Union Constitution.

Vol. 24, Issue 27, Page 12

Published in Print: March 16, 2005, as Students Oppose Education Bill

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