France to End Arabic-Medium Education

French president Emmanuel Macron announced plans last month to combat “Islamic separatism” in France—including new rules on education and foreign imams

Announced during the same week as International Mother Language Day, the declared aim is to “fight foreign influence” and “promote the [positive] organization of the Muslim faith,” according to Macron, who said that from September, French schools would no longer offer classes in other languages, including Arabic, nor will they use curricula from foreign governments.
The current system, ELCO (enseignements de langue et culture d’origine; teaching of language and culture from the country of origin), serves 80,000 students a year from nine countries: Algeria, Croatia, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Macron said that the problem is that “we have more and more teachers who do not speak French, and for whom our national education is not relevant. I’m not comfortable with the idea that in a school in the [French] Republic, teachers can teach without [the] National Education [Ministry] having any control. And nor do we have any control, either, of the curricula that are taught. We cannot be teaching things that are manifestly incompatible with the laws of the Republic, or history as we see it. From the new 2020 school year, teaching according to foreign curricula and teaching in foreign languages will be removed from everywhere on Republic soil.”

In an interview with LCI, former French minister of culture Jack Lang defended Arabic-medium teaching in French schools, saying that ELCO was created in 1977 to “respond to an emergency need for teaching in native languages,” but that ELCO teaching positions had been “taken up by unqualified” teachers, with “neither control nor respect for the programs.”

He added that the teaching of Arabic should not be “left in the hands of private agencies that use it to pass on values which are not ours.”

Lang, who is also the president of the Arab World Institute in Paris, said that Arabic enabled French culture to open to “mathematics, history, medicine. It’s our heritage.”

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