Special Dispatch From Paris: Uniforms Back In French Schools?

Special Dispatch From Paris: Uniforms Back In French Schools?

After imposing a ban on ‘abayas’- a full-length outer garment worn by some Muslim women- on the grounds of protecting principles of secularism in French educational institutions, Gabriel Attal, France’s new Minister for Education would like to introduce uniforms in schools.

Roshan BourgetUpdated: Tuesday, September 05, 2023, 09:33 AM IST
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France's Education and Youth Minister Gabriel Attal | File

After imposing a ban on ‘abayas’- a full-length outer garment worn by some Muslim women- on the grounds of protecting principles of secularism in French educational institutions, Gabriel Attal, France’s new Minister for Education would like to introduce uniforms in schools. As schools in the country reopened after the two month long summer holidays, the 34-year-old minister announced on Monday morning on RTL, a French radio station, that he would spell out the terms and conditions of testing the use of uniforms in school by this fall.

We are going to work on it with the elected officials and National Education staff. It is important that the teaching community as well as parents are open to this. Many French people are in favour of it while others are not, reveals Attal. France totally did away with uniforms in public schools in 1968. They exist only in some private schools, military schools and a handful of professional schools. However, the seed of the debate about introducing them again in school was sown in 2003 when the then Education Minister, Xavier Darcos, voiced that uniforms would reduce visible differences related to class and wealth.

Macron's wife in favour of uniforms

The debate has grown in amplitude ever since. The Far-Right wing parties have been vehemently pushing this debate in the Parliament since January 2023. Brigitte Macron, Emmanuel Macron’s wife and France’s First Lady agreed with them on this issue and called for compulsory uniforms in schools. Mrs. Macron, a retired school teacher herself, had said in an interview in the Le Parisien newspaper, "It erases differences, we save time it’s time-consuming to choose how to dress in the morning and money. The current proposal for uniform trials in school comes not only in the wake of the ban on ‘abayas’, but also to increase the notion of the schools’ authority on its pupils. Moreover, restoring the uniform system will hopefully bring down inequalities and help families with their clothing-related expenditure."

While Pap Ndiaye, the earlier Education Minister in Macron’s government was dead against imposing a dress code in schools, Attal who replaced him in July this year is clearly much more open to the idea. The young minister said, I am not sure that this is a miracle solution that will solve all the problems in schools, but it deserves to be tested.

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