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France: Worrying drop in educational level in ‘difficult’ areas

The French Ministry of National Education has communicated the results of assessments on the educational level of students. It was carried out at the start of the school year. Students in "priority" education were the most affected by the Coronavirus confinement. But the ideological climate has also been deteriorating.

Published: November 13, 2020, 8:51 am

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    The Coronavirus crisis has hit everyone, especially schools. While the first semester of 2020 was marked by the closure of schools in March, the impact of confinement on the educational level of students is particularly telling.

    As was reported by Europe1, the National Education administration unveiled on Monday, November 10 the results of a national assessment conducted at the start of the school year. The ministry speaks of a worrying situation, attributable to the measures taken to fight against the epidemic and it highlights especially sharp declines in the pivotal levels of CP and CE1. The preparatory course (CP) and elementary course 1 (CE1) allow pupils to acquire the basics of languages (French language, mathematics), with scientific activities related to children’s centres of interests, entitled Discovering the World.

    In CE1 in particular, the drop in competence mainly concerns reading and writing. In difficult neighborhoods where CP-CE1 classes have been split to promote learning, confinement has wiped out all progress.

    “What worries me is that the ministry is deaf to our requests, which go back to the first confinement, which was to reduce the workload,” explained Jean-François Clair, a math teacher in sixth grade in a “priority education” – a euphemism for an immigrant school. For the moment, the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer has indicated that there would be no question of reducing the workload.

    The unusual workload has not had the same impact on native French children however. It is worth noting that ideological issues have meanwhile also stirred up the educational environment in the country.

    The Institution Sainte-Anne, near Bordeaux, is under maximum surveillance after a report of individuals circling the establishment.

    The news outlet 20minutes reported that this Catholic establishment, which includes a school and a college, was targeted by a particularly threatening message. On Tuesday November 10, the message “You are all dead” was found on a fence of the Institution. Police and judicial authorities take the matter very seriously. “A criminal investigation has been carried out in flagrante delicto since Tuesday and entrusted to the departmental security of Gironde for facts related to a death threat,” the prosecutor of the Republic of Bordeaux, Frédérique Porterie said.

    Multiple investigations are underway in order to identify the author or authors of these threats which are part of a particular context. Since November 6, the police have learned of a number of events that do not constitute a criminal offense but nevertheless call for the greatest caution: a vehicle spotted in the vicinity of the establishment, and individuals inquiring about places. “We noted the presence of individuals who seemed suspicious,” Rozenn Petit, director of the college, told France 3 Aquitaine.

    The management of the establishment has alerted parents of the students to warn them of “a Vigipirate alert on Sainte-Anne”.

    In Ardenne, two 15-year-old high school students were taken into custody and then presented to a judge this week. One of the two is accused of having defended terrorism during a course organized as part of the tribute to the beheaded teacher Samuel Paty, at the Lycée Le Château de Sedan.

    The public prosecutor specified that the facts took place during a course on freedom of expression, conducted as part of the tribute to Samuel Paty, on November 2.

    Contacted by regional news outlet France Bleu Champagne-Ardenne, the magistrate explained that one of the adolescents found the attack perpetrated against the beheaded teacher “normal”, and added that if he had been in the place of the assailant, “he would have beheaded the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron”. His ideas shared by the second high school student, but the latter apologized during his custody because “he wanted to be smart”.

    “He has claimed his Turkish origins, which he got from his mother since he was born in France. He insulted his teacher, a Kabyle [a Berber ethnic group from Algeria, ed.] for being ‘traitor to his race’,” the magistrate explained.

    The judge however refused the indictment for justifying terrorism. Incredulous after this curious decision by the judge, the prosecution decided to appeal on Thursday, November 12.

    Hundreds of similar threats were posted on the Facebook page of Stéphane Raffalli, the Socialist mayor of Ris-Orangis, after his comment on a post on a tribute paid to the murdered teacher. And threats targeting elected officials have been observed all over Ile-de-France.

    The mayor’s team took screenshots of these messages, before taking down the content. “They are extremely violent,” commented the city councilor. “These are calls for murder.”

    Since the beheading of Paty, nearly 200 investigations were launched in the last week of October for inciting terrorism, death threats, insults or incitement to hatred in connection with this assassination.

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