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Sarkozy Emphasizes Respect for Teachers

Posted September. 06, 2007 07:28,   


French President Nicholas Sarkozy sent a long letter to 850,000 teachers across the country right before the start of the new school year yesterday.

He was inspired by a letter sent in 1883 by then education minister Jules Ferry during the Third Republic (1870-1940) to teachers when elementary school education was established as compulsory and based on secularization.

The president urged teachers to restore school authority and blamed the side effects caused by a demonstration in May 1968.

“Students are not in the same position as teachers. In the past, imparting knowledge used to be the first priority for the education of France. Now the problem is education without knowledge, and has been for the past several decades. Our education is not being maximized but being minimized.”

Sarkozy emphasized the restoration of teacher’s authority as a priority.

He mentioned a school where students show respect when a teacher comes in a classroom or a school where students learn manners, patience and tolerance, and said, “Reform should occur in the classroom.” He added, “Teaching as an occupation used to be the finest one, but now, the reality is totally different after classrooms are ruled by violence.” He has promised teachers more autonomous control over students and to treat them better than before.

France’s president argued, “Excessive and incomplete practical education took general education a step backwards, but general education should be the priority.” He said, “If you say it is enough to let people from the working class read, write and calculate, it is nothing but contempt. Don’t make liberal education and technology education confront each other and please teach students the clear way of French thought as it appeared in French philosophy, science and literature.”

Sarkozy didn’t forget mentioning the abolishment of the school district system, compulsory second language education, and reforms of united middle schools in order to improve the quality of middle school education.

This was the first time that the president sent a letter to teachers. The president wrote the letter and sent each letter to teachers’ homes with the help of his aides. Le Monde reported that it cost 500,000 euros to send them all.

The teachers union said that the letter did not mirror the reality. The French secondary teachers’ union (SNES) pointed out that his rhetorical letter covered various problems ranging from budget deficits to teacher downsizing.