Hostility to compulsory English in French schools

22nd October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 21 (AFP) - A new report recommending English become a compulsory subject in all schools in France has stirred heated debate in the country, with teachers' unions and proponents of linguistic diversity clenching their jaws in opposition, Friday's Le Monde newspaper reported.

PARIS, Oct 21 (AFP) - A new report recommending English become a compulsory subject in all schools in France has stirred heated debate in the country, with teachers' unions and proponents of linguistic diversity clenching their jaws in opposition, Friday's Le Monde newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is said to back the proposal, which was advanced a week ago by a commission looking into the future of France's education system, according to the daily.

Such a move would help French pupils catch up with their counterparts in other EU countries who enjoy a big lead in using what the commission's report called the language of "international communication".

Currently, 97 percent of French students opt to study English to some extent, often as their required first foreign language. Overall results, though, are "relatively mediocre," Le Monde noted.

But some politicians who want to see English usage diminished until it is just one of several widely accepted languages - among which French, of course, would figure - have railed against the idea of making English being compulsory.

"English is the most-spoken language today, but that won't last," one deputy from the ruling UMP party, Jacques Myard, told Le Monde.

He predicted that Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish would all become increasingly important in the future.

Teacher unions, too, are against the measure, fearing existing classes in German, Italian or regional French languages such as Breton would dwindle to nothing, and even regular French courses could suffer.

The final decision on the touchy issue could come down to President Jacques Chirac, Le Monde predicted.

The French leader, who speaks fluent English from his time working as a youth in the United States, has kept out of the debate so far.

But during a trip to Vietnam early this month, Chirac was quoted as saying he was against a world "where we speak only one language".

© AFP

Subject: French News

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