French students protest as Paris debates

15th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 15 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of French high school students and teachers took to the streets Tuesday to protest the centre-right government's education reform bill as the draft was presented to lawmakers for debate.

PARIS, Feb 15 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of French high school students and teachers took to the streets Tuesday to protest the centre-right government's education reform bill as the draft was presented to lawmakers for debate.

But the bill, aimed at halting the decline in French educational standards, was stripped of its key provision - changes to the revered 200-year-old baccalaureat school-leaving examination - after a similar protest last week.

Organisers said between 50,000 and 60,000 students and teachers marched through central Paris, demanding that the entire reform bill designed by Education Minister Francois Fillon be withdrawn.

"Fillon - resign!" chanted the students as they left the place de la Republique under tight security.

Another 14,000 protesters marched in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, while at least 5,000 students took to the streets on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

Fillon said Sunday that he would withdraw proposed changes to the so-called "bac" exam, telling Europe 1 radio: "We will modify the reform bill via government amendment to give us the time we need."

He insisted Tuesday that the "bac' reforms would eventually go through but that he just needed more time.

"The bac is a symbol. Beyond the reality of the situation, you have to take the psychology into account," he told France Inter radio.

Later, the education minister told lawmakers in the lower-house National Assembly that his bill was "a just initiative".

Fillon's bill calls for all students to master a "core" of knowledge and skills, expanded foreign language courses, and guaranteed extra tuition for failing students via "individual success contracts."

The withdrawn "bac" clause would have cut the number of subjects taught for the bac from 12 to six and introduced continuous assessment as part of a student's results - rather than traditional examinations - from 2007.

But students say the exam - held up as a benchmark of academic achievement and a symbol of national equality - should remain as is, claiming the reforms would create a "two-tier" system, with the bac sat by teenagers in poorer neighbourhoods eventually having less value.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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