French primary school children are to be taught to sing the national anthem in public and to recite the “meaning of the construction of Europe” to boost patriotism and ward off the type of Euroscepticism that led to Brexit.
It is also hoped the changes to the French curriculum will prevent children born into families who immigrated from former African colonies from falling foul of Islamist preachers when they hit their teens.
Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, wants pupils to learn La Marseillaise, as well as the origins of France’s blue, white and red flag and the meaning of liberty, equality and fraternity.
To ensure children are not lured into finding favour with “Frexit”, they will also learn the meaning of the European flag and to be able to recognise Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the anthem of the EU, which French president Emmanuel Macron had played on his electoral victory night.
The curriculum, to be rolled out in primary schools this autumn, aims to help train model French citizens. In a report, the education ministry’s higher council said the changes would bolster democratic principles, gender equality and human rights.
It said pupils must be taught to argue their own case, respect other opinions and “regulate their emotions” to avoid disagreements turning violent.
Primary schools have been required to include La Marseillaise on the curriculum since 2005 but the current plan is the most detailed and ambitious to date.
From the age six, children will already have to recognise the anthem, identify the French flag and understand that Bastille Day is the country’s national day.
They will be required to know the national anthem by heart by the age of eight and be expected to recocgnise Marianne, the female emblem of the French Republic.
By 10, they will have to sing La Marseillaise in public, and be expected to have a basic grasp of “representative democracy”. The final year of primary school will focus on teaching the importance of obeying the law, paying taxes and respecting other citizens.
Eleven-year-olds will also be taught the “meaning of the construction of Europe”, as well as “the nation of European citizenship and the freedoms which flow from that”.
Claire Krepper of the SE-Unsa teaching union was sceptical, saying the changes were part of the government’s "desire to reassure public opinion by making believe that we are returning to common sense".
But in an online questionnaire on Le Figaro’s website, 90 per cent of the 45,000 respondents backed the plan.
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