Minister seeks to cut French school holidays
It takes a brave government minister to touch something as sacrosanct as France’s two-month summer holidays.
So the education minister, Vincent Peillon, was either being courageous or committing political suicide when he announced yesterday that he wanted the school summer break reduced from eight to six weeks.
Mr Peillon already has a bloody nose from attempts to overhaul the French education system, suggesting pupils should give up their midweek day off or have classes on Saturday mornings in exchange for a daily reduction of the school day by 45 minutes. The idea caused a walkout among staff at schools last month and brought teachers and parents on to the streets in protest.
After dropping his summer holiday bombshell, Mr Peillon admitted it would not take effect before 2015, when he hopes to have forced through reforms that will make French pupils attend school 4½ days a week instead of four.
President François Hollande promised to overhaul the education system after he was elected in May last year, saying: “France has the shortest school year and the longest day.” He pledged a massive shakeup, including less homework and less repetition of a school year for those deemed unable to keep up.
Since 1882 when free state schools were introduced, children have had a day off midweek, originally so they could do their religious instruction. To make up for this, they were expected to go to school on Saturday mornings, but this was scrapped by Nicolas Sarkozy.
Secondary school students in France spend an average of 847 hours a year in school, compared with an average of 774 in many European countries. – ( Guardian service)