London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Introducing civic and social education in French upper secondary school (lycées)

Author(s) Nicole Tutiaux-Guillon  
Publisher CiCe Publications  
Year 2001  
Editor A. Ross, Learning for Democratic Europe  
Language English  
Age group -  
From the end of the nineteenth century to 1999 there was no civic education in French lycées (upper secondary schools). This resulted in a perception that lycées were reserved for the bourgeoisie: the bourgeois young were supposed to develop civic consciousness through humanities (Greek and Latin authors), through history, and through their familial education. However, civics did exist in primary schools, and there was also sporadic civics teaching in collèges (lower secondary education), most often when the political context seemed to require it. Over the last 15 years changes both in school and in society have altered this situation. From the 1950s onward there has been a general tendency to democratise secondary education. In the 1980s the Ministry of Education decided that 80% of students must reach the level of baccalauréat (including the technological or vocational/professional baccalauréat); this objective opened the general lycées to young people of different socio-cultural origins, instead of only to those from the upper and upper middle classes1. At the same time, several enquiries reported a growing indifference to politics, an increasing critical view of politicians and political debates, and a weakening attachment to common values. Politicians and media displayed anxiety about individualism, communitarism, violence, and incivility among the young and in schools. These attitudes were interpreted as a crisis of social cohesion and a danger to democracy. In this context, teaching civics may well seem a solution to social and political problems

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