As part of President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to combat inequality, French schools in disadvantaged areas will stay open later in the day to give students a space to do homework, participate in sports, or participate in cultural activities. French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a number of initiatives to reduce educational inequality while in the city of Marseille, including extending the hours of operation.
The president announced that, starting with Marseille, collèges (for students aged 11 to 15) in priority areas—areas identified by the government as having relatively lower income levels—would remain open from 8 am to 6 pm in an effort to give students a place to do their homework or participate in extracurricular activities like sports or the arts.
Inequality in education, according to Macron, is “created in the time when the child is sent home” — for instance, between students who have a quiet place to do their homework and those who don’t. According to the president, the programme will eventually be expanded to all priority neighbourhoods in France, impacting collèges that are prioritised and are abbreviated as “REP” or “REP+.”
Periscolaire, or after-school clubs, are available at elementary french schools for kids ages six to eleven. These clubs are open until seven o’clock and are frequently used by parents as an affordable alternative to daycare. The president said that maternelles, a type of preschool for children ages 3-6, would begin to accept youngsters as young as two in Marseille’s priority areas. The intention is to extend this to other key regions throughout French territory by 2027.
Maternelles now accept children between the ages of three and six; in 2018, it was made mandatory as part of a Macron administration initiative to combat educational inequality by guaranteeing that all children are on par when they enter elementary school at the age of six. He also spoke of initiatives to lower maternelle class sizes in high-need communities. Marseille, the second-largest city in France and located on the Mediterranean coast in the south of the nation, has long suffered with poverty and inequality, especially in the northern parts of the city.
A follow-up to his 2021 plan known as “Marseille en Grand,” which sought to regenerate the city by providing more funding for infrastructure to better connect underserved neighbourhoods, combat the drug trade, and renovate dilapidated French schools, Macron also pledged to double state funding to improve public transport networks in the city during the visit in 2023.
Despite these efforts, citizens of Marseille have expressed frustration that the objectives have not been achieved. Le Monde said that during a meeting with a number of local residents on Monday night, citizens from the city’s northern areas addressed Macron and informed him that “nothing has been done.”
Macron replied that although work had started, it “had not gone fast enough.” With a total budget of €1.5 billion, 28 French schools construction or refurbishment projects have been started since the introduction of the 2021 scheme.