Paris backs down on 'bac' reform after student demos

14th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 14 (AFP) - The French government, bowing to pressure from high school students, has withdrawn changes to the revered baccalaureat exam, the centrepiece of its education reform bill due to go before parliament Tuesday.

PARIS, Feb 14 (AFP) - The French government, bowing to pressure from high school students, has withdrawn changes to the revered baccalaureat exam, the centrepiece of its education reform bill due to go before parliament Tuesday.

After tens of thousands of high school students walked out of class last week to protest the planned changes to the "bac", Education Minister Francois Fillon said Sunday that changes to the school-leaving exam were off the table.

"We will modify the reform bill via government amendment to give us the time we need," Fillon told private Europe 1 radio, explaining that the amendment would suppress a clause changing the 200-year-old exam launched by Napoleon.

The minister insisted the rest of the reform package would go through as planned, but noted: "With the bac, we can take a bit more time."

The 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 angry students took to the streets last week to protest the changes, saying the exam - held up as a benchmark of academic achievement and a symbol of national equality - should remain as it is.

They say the reforms will create a "two-tier" system, with the bac sat by teenagers in poorer neighbourhoods eventually having less value.

A second student protest is scheduled to take place on Tuesday when lawmakers in the lower-house National Assembly begin debate on the education reform bill, aimed at halting the decline in French educational standards.

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."

Student leaders say Tuesday's demonstration will go ahead despite Fillon's decision to retreat on "bac' reform.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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