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French schools to have choirs, but no mobile phones

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP

The French government has announced that mobile phones will be banned in French schools by September 2018, and that choirs will be introduced over the next two years.

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On Sunday, the French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said that mobile phones will be banned in schools from the start of the next school year.

The move makes good on one of French president Emmanuel Macron’s campaign pledges, but until now, no date for the ban enforcement had been given.

Mobile phones are already forbidden in classrooms in all French primary schools and in the first four years of secondary school called collège. The French government wants to extend the ban to the rest of the school environment.

The announcement raises practical questions as to how the ban would actually be enforced: for example, where will the phones be stored, how will staff check that pupils were respecting the rules and will parents abide by them?

“We are examining the question, the ban could work in a number of ways,” Blanquer explained. “Mobile phones might be needed for educational purposes or in an emergency, so it is important that their use is restricted.”

An increasing number of children and teenagers have a mobile phone. A 2015 study showed that over eight out of 10 teenagers own a smartphone, up from only 20 percent in 2011. In primary schools, some children as young as eight are bringing phones into school, Le Monde reported.

On Monday, the government announced another change for the next school year: ring tones will be replaced by human voices. By September 2018, all of France’s 7,000 collèges will have choirs, where children will have the choice to sing two hours a week. Currently, one out of four French schools has a choir. “It is the first time choir singing is on the curriculum," Blanquet said on Sunday. The programme will be rolled out to all French primary schools over the next two years. “The idea is to bring culture into the classroom in the long term,” culture minister Françoise Nyssen said Sunday.

Schools’ repertoire will have to be a blend of classical music and a popular tunes including some French classics by Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf or the French national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’.

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