FRANCE’S lower house approved a plan recently to introduce more courses in English at universities despite critics alleging it will undermine efforts to promote French.
A majority of lawmakers in the National Assembly in Paris, approved the second article of a bill on higher education in a show-of-hands vote. The full bill is expected to be approved in the assembly soon.
Higher Education Minister Genevieve Fioraso (pic) hailed the adoption of the measure as a step forward for French education.
“I am delighted that we did this, after all these discussions. The way this (debate) was going was going seemed like we were turning inward.”
The vote followed heated debate with lawmakers from the main right-wing opposition UMP saying the measure threatened France’s identity. “A people that speak a foreign language more and more, loses its identity piece by piece,” said opposition lawmaker Jacques Myard.
But Socialist lawmaker Thierry Mandon called the controversy “a storm in a teacup” and accused opponents of having “a phobia of foreign students”.
The measure, which would also introduce lessons in languages other than English, aims to increase the number of foreign students at universities from 12% to 15% by 2020.
Critics say it will harm efforts to protect the French language, while supporters argue it will improve the employability of French youth and the attractiveness of the country’s universities.
But several leading unions in the education sector have said the proposal is unacceptable.
Hundreds of teachers took to the streets recently, to show their opposition.