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What the papers said 27 Mar 2018

rfi English, Mar 27

President Emmanuel Macron wants all children in school from the age of three; and the French political right wants all terrorist suspects kicked out or imprisoned.

News for three-year-old children who may be reading this. President Emmanuel Macron is going to send you to school even earlier than at present.

The current age for obligatory school attendance is six. The official reason for the age-limit reduction is the importance of the years before the age of six for learning, as revealed by recent cognitive research, much admired by the Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer.

Memory, sleep, music and emotional development are all to be considered at Tuesday’s conference on getting what the minister calls the "pedagogic locomotive" back on the rails. He also wants exams to start as early as infant school.

The minister is promising a "space for growth," with games, music, stories and theatre.

According to Le Monde, the presidential gesture is purely symbolic since 97 % of three-year-olds are already in school anyway. The news is bad only for the three per cent of children at home, about 20,000 children.

And there are huge regional variations: the 93 percent is reached in Paris, the figure for three-year-olds in school is as low as 70 percent in the French overseas territories.

The changes won't become effective, at the earliest, before the autumn of 2019.

The problem is finance, since France is one of the weak performers in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's school rankings, with an average 23 kids per junior teacher, when the OECD figure is 14 to one.

So the question becomes, how can the system be reformed without extra cash to pay more teachers?

Is the security S-file system a waste of effort?

Le Figaro has more serious concerns. The right-wing daily wonders about the efficiency of the anti-terrorist security system know as the "S-files", the "S" standing for "State Security".

The man responsible for four deaths in attacks in the Aude last Friday had been technically under police scrutiny as a high-risk suspect since 2014. But that didn't hamper him in any way.

Laurent Wauquiez, the leader of the right-wing Republicans, has called for the re-installation of the emergency powers which followed the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. Wauquiez also wants all S-listed foreigners expelled from France, or immediately placed in holding centres.

Left-leaning Libération gives the right-wing the front page, but only to criticise their latest security concerns as opportunistic and simplistic.

Worse, Libé says the measures proposed by the conservatives are inapplicable and/or counter-productive.

There is no legal basis on which individuals who are listed as "State Security" risks can be held, if they have committed no crime. They are considered potentially dangerous, and can be prevented from leaving a French or European airport for a destination in the middle-east. But that's as far as it goes.

The proposal to expel S-listed foreigners is unnecessary, since those who would deserve to be kicked out for security breaches already are: 38 radical imams have been sent back to Algeria in the past two years, not because they were on the list (most were not) but because they were inciting hatred and promoting violence.

Anyway, says Libé, when you send S-listed foreigners back home you lose sight of them completely.

There is no need for a return to the conditions of the state of emergency. Last year's antiterrorist legislation has incorporated the crucial measures into common law. If the police wish to raid a suspect's home, they still need judicial authorisation. This has been requested, and agreed, four times since the new law came into force.

As for the idea of banning the ultra-orthodox salafist movement, seen by many as the seed-bed of Islamic terrorism, the law will not support any ban based on a religious belief. The imams who have been expelled were guilty of specific acts of hate speech. Being a salafist does not make you a terrorist.


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