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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’école perdrait 13 500 postes

by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand

French School System to Shed 13,500 jobs

Translated Saturday 26 July 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Education Minister Xavier Darcos has spelled out the number of jobs to be cut in 2009. High school students and teachers intend to counter-attack when classes begin in the Autumn.

More than yesterday and far fewer than tomorrow? The national education system now knows the tune. In an interview published yesterday (July 9) in the French daily Libération, Education Minister Xavier Darcos announced that the number of jobs that his ministry will shed at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year will be close to 13,500. That, at least, is the figure that he has submitted to Prime Minister François Fillon and “which will probably be adopted” in the 2009 budget, Darcos said.

The 2008 budget has already eliminated 11,200 jobs, including 8,500 high school teaching positions. In all, and since 2003, nearly 30,000 jobs have already been axed from the national education service.

As concerns the 2009-2010 school year, Xavier Darcos has not yet spelled out how many of the job losses will concern teachers and how many will concern other school staff. But since teachers comprise over 80% of the permanent jobs in education, they will probably once again be those most affected by the cuts.

The high schools, which are to be reformed next year, will not be directly affected, the minister promised. In a general way, he promises that there will be fewer consequences on the range of subjects taught. He intends to reorganize the “administrative superstructure” by “using personnel more efficiently” in order to “free up a margin of maneuver.” In other words, as was the case last year, the minister is thinking of dipping into the teaching hours devoted to “special assignments” and bringing “home” the teachers involved.

“We’ve got around 30,000 people who are not in front of a classroom of pupils because they have been detailed to all kinds of services. Among other things, it is a question of teachers being detailed to administrations, associations, and cultural and social organizations.” Thus, the teachers who have been detailed to the “institutes for the training of primary school teachers” (IUFM), pedagogical research organizations such as the INRP and the CRAP (1), and specialized publications such as those of the CNDP or the magazine Idées are particularly targeted. Permanent substitute teachers are at the head of the list. “We’ve got 50,000 people in the replacement system alone, and this system is only mobilized at 80% of capacity,” Xavier Darcos explained. “If it were functioning at 100%, we could save the equivalent of 10,000 full-time (jobs).”

The teachers unions and high school student unions reply that this is absurd and will devastate the range of subjects on offer. They point out that, among other things, there are already too few substitute teachers. The fact is, schools have a long way to go in replacing teachers who are absent for a medium length of time. This year, some regional school systems had to call on retired teachers to fill in for teachers who were absent for a short period. The unions, which plan to hold meetings before the end of the summer holidays, warn that the range of options on offer and specific teaching set-ups are also likely to suffer. Both teachers and high school students state that there can be no question of not reacting. They foresee a wave of protests at the beginning of the school year.

(1) INRP = National institute for pedagogical research. CRAP = Circle for research and pedagogical action.

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