- Title: FRANCE-SHOOTING/EDUCATION France takes battle against radical Islam into schools
- Date: 22nd January 2015
- Summary: AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS, FRANCE (JANUARY 22, 2015) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF SCHOOL CHILDREN IN COURTYARD OF SCHOOL
- Embargoed: 6th February 2015 12:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAC4UJ1T1D9FIX7VNRD3CHFV33A
- Story Text: France unveiled a battery of new measures on Thursday (January 22) aimed at helping schools combat radical Islam, racism and anti-Semitism in the latest series of emergency policies launched in the wake of deadly Islamist attacks two weeks ago.
The moves, including more teacher training and civic and ethics education in the country's secular curriculum, come after dozens of schools complained of pupils refusing to join a Jan. 8 nation-wide minute of silence for the victims.
While millions of French have marched to defend freedom of expression after the killings at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, others have described its cartoons of Islam's prophet Muhammad as offensive and rejected the "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") movement of national unity.
In an unprecedented indictment by a French leader of the country's failure to integrate large immigrant populations from North Africa and elsewhere, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said this week the aftermath of the attacks demonstrated that a form of "social and ethnic apartheid" was current in France.
"On January 11, the French people showed their attachment to their Republican system, an attachment which has two fundamental pillars, which we must never again forget. Republican order, but also (an attachment to) our values: equality is at the heart of our Republic and so is secularism, which has to be applied everywhere, because it inspires fellowship and it allows everyone to live together," Valls told a news conference.
A thousand educationalists will receive training to help teachers deal with pupils' questions on France's secular tradition, citizenship, prejudices, with an early-warning system put in place to identity and deal with worrying behaviour. Valls said schools are a top priority in the fight against terrorism and radical Islam.
"Rebuilding a connection with the Republic, that's to say citizenship, involves being strict about two points: first of all, our values -- secularism, solidarity, tolerance -- but also about their transmission, their application, into real daily life. And the Republican school, free and secular, is on the front line," Valls said.
French symbols such as the flag and national anthem will be explicitly celebrated and one day, Dec. 9, set aside as a "Day of Secularism".
Three home-grown gunmen of Algerian and African origins killed 17 people in three days of violence, starting with the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and ending with a siege at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
Around 200 incidents in which the national minute of silence was disrupted in schools were reported to the education ministry and social media testify to a vigourous debate among many pupils about the limits of freedom of expression.
"The principle of secularism turns a child into a student. It allows them to overcome individual circumstances, personal experience, and to create an 'us', a collective. Secularism has to be owned, totally, as an opportunity, as a value, which allows school to be both the guarantor of the Republican collective conscience, and also a way of emancipating each individual student," Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said.
Few dispute that many children, notably from immigrant backgrounds, feel outsiders in a French school system once heralded as among the best in the world but now showing cracks. Yet there is no full consensus on the causes or the remedies.
Others argue the root cause is much wider and lies in a ghettoisation of much of France's immigrant populations in underprivileged zones around its main cities.
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