Saturday, 6 June 2015

Religion is gaining ground in our society… and the secular school has not been spared. "I see more and more veiled pupils," a teacher in post-mandatory education says. After Charlie Hebdo, some boys let their beards grow in the jihad style; one of them provoked his female teachers several times, she continues. This pupil was turning up in class with a djellaba and cap, late, because he had been to the mosque to pray, he said. Several times he verbally attacked the girls in his class with sexist remarks about their western habits."

It's not just these visual aspects that indicate a certain malaise in the school. Lessons are also often disputed by pupils and...this leads teachers to self-censor! "Some people are avoiding sensitive topics that could upset people. They'd rather talk about the Incas then the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Armenian Genocide," points out Christian Macherel, dean of the Collège et Ecole de commerce (CEC) André-Chavanne, where 2000 pupils of more than 120 nationalities and 80 languages mix with one another.

In spring 2014, this institution in Petit-Saconnex was confronted with a major divergence of views between a brilliant student in the 4th year, aged 19, and his geography teacher. The content of his course on the role of religious extremism in some current conflicts, especially the Israeli-Palestinian condlict, was severely criticised by the family of this young Jew, with the support of the Coordination intercommunautaire contre l’antisémitisme et la diffamation (Cicad) [Intercommunity coordination centre against antisemitism and defamation]. In their view, this course "gave the impression that the Jews were trying to reproduce a genocide, and had a pro-Arab orientation, which is not acceptable in the context of school education".

... It is above all differences with Muslim and sometimes Jewish pupils that the schools is confronted with. "As far as I am aware, we don't have problems with other religions, or with atheists," observes Christian Macherel.

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