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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

School will be compulsory in France from age three

Por Nina

The children of France will soon have to start school at the age of three, according to a new measure announced by President Emmanuel Macron. The provision, which will come into force in September 2019, significantly reduces the age of compulsory schooling, which currently is from six to 16 years. The Government estimates that the entry into force of the measure will require the creation of about 800 new jobs.

Observers say that the change is more a symbolic gesture, since the great majority of parents in France already enroll their children in an école maternelle (preschool) from the age of three, taking advantage of the free system.

The decision "reflects the desire of the president to make the school the place of true equality and is the recognition that the ecole maternelle should no longer be considered only as a form of daycare or preparation for primary school, but as a true school, focused on the acquisition of language and the development of the child," the Elysée said in a statement.

In the 2015-2016 school year, almost 98% of three-year-old children in France were enrolled in school, but there were significant differences across the country. In Paris, 93 percent of three-year-olds were in school, while the rate was 87 percent in Corsica and 70 percent in the French overseas territories, according to official figures quoted by The Local newspaper.

In his speech, Macron, who has considered education as one of the priorities of his mandate, said he hopes that the new measure "corrects this unacceptable differential." After the announcement on Twitter, the president shared with the children a long list of reasons for the benefits of attending school, including the opportunity to learn, eat in the canteen and play.

The Macron measure will give France the lowest age to begin compulsory schooling in Europe, according to data from the European Commission. Northern Ireland requires that children begin compulsory education at the age of 4 years, while in Cyprus they start when children are four and eight months old, according to data from 2014-2015. Most countries in Europe demand that children attend school at the age of five or six.

The Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg said that if the first three years of compulsory schooling in France were based on "play, physical activity, music, the arts and helping children to develop healthy levels of self-awareness and good social skills", it could be very beneficial. "The research is very clear that helping children develop these mental habits and skills through play in the early years is associated with better wealth, well-being, creativity and self-control in later years," he said. However, he said that any effort to make early childhood education a "new primary school" would be a "big mistake".

Yoshie Kaga, UNESCO's education specialist, agrees that compulsory schooling from such an early age could be positive if it is carried out by well-trained teachers with learning opportunities both inside and outside, and a curriculum that supports their development. She points out that it could be particularly beneficial for children whose families cannot offer the same care or education in the home or for those whose families communicate in a different language at home.

However, she says that if education and pre-school care are of low quality, it would be better for children to stay at home. She added that for families who have chosen not to send their children to preschool until now, it could be difficult to accept the new rules. "Maybe they feel attached to their young children, maybe they feel that, from their cultural perspective, families should stay with very young children," she said.