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State and private education in France

jeudi 9 septembre 2004

In 2003, there were 11,7 millions of students including 2 millions in the private school system. For the children between 3 and 10 years the relation between state and private schools is : 86,5%/ 13,5%. Between 11 and 18 years : 80%/20%. And for the Universities : 86% /14 % .

The programs of 95% of the private education system are controlled by the French state. (Schematically, the remaining 5 % are either in the hands of Catholic extremists either in the hands of…libertarian pedagogues.) The state finances a good part of the budget of the private schools which accept its rules. In 2003, 100 billion euros were spent on education by the state, private sector and regions. At least 7 billion euros of the taxpayer’s money went to private schools. Private schools (95% are catholic) in France regroup 20% of the pupils. 3% of the teachers of the private system are clerics.

Three departments of France* enjoy a very special regime since 1802. A « Concordat » (an agreement) was signed between the First Consul Bonaparte and the Pope, agreement which was later extended to the Protestants and Jews. The text states : « the governement of the Republic recognizes that Catholic religion is the the religion of the great majority of French citizens ».

In Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle, the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic clerics are payed by the state even if they are not state functionaries ; they have the right to teach religion in state Schools. Religious education (1 or 2 hours per week) is compulsory unless the parents ask a dispensation for their child. In 2003, 36 millions of euros were royally spent to feed 1455 clerics.

Religious premises or chapels are not forbidden in French state schools. If they are progressively disappearing or closing, it is not linked to the atheist or secularist attitude of the French state, but to the lack of interest of French young people.

* To these three exceptions one has to add Mayotte island (184 000 inhabitants) in the Comoros archipelago, and French Guiana (191 000 inhabitants), between Surinam and Brazil.

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