Something new in French education this year is La Charte de la Laïcité – Declaration of Secularity. It takes the form of a rather unimposing A4, laminated poster that all state schools (from primary to lycée) have to display. Collège in Boussac has its up and I inspected it the other day.
It has 15 statements on it and they boil down to this:
- France is a secular democracy. However, all its citizens have the right to follow a religious faith.
- The French state is neutral when it comes to religious and spiritual viewpoints. State and religion are thus kept separate.
- Such secularity allows freedom of conscience. People can believe and express themselves how they choose but they must respect the beliefs of others.
- France’s secularity thus gives all its citizens freedom (liberté), egalité (equality) and fraternité (brotherhood) with this mutual respect.
- France’s leaders will respect liberté, egalité and fraternité within schools.
- Secular schools allow the pupils to develop free from proselytism i.e. no religious beliefs being forced on them.
- Secularity in schools means all pupils have a common experience.
- Every pupil has freedom of speech but must respect the values defended by France i.e. liberté, egalité, fraternité and the convictions of his/her fellows.
- If one respects secularism, then there will be no prejudice with religious roots. Boys and girls have the same rights.
- Teachers and school staff will promote the importance of secularity.
- Teachers and school staff must demonstrate neutrality with regards to religious beliefs.
- No pupil has the right to refuse to attend any school classes on religious grounds.
- Religion cannot be used as an excuse to disobey school rules.
- No one is allowed to wear a religious symbol at school e.g. cross as jewellery, foulard, kippa.
- Pupils are encouraged to think about secularism and contribute to their school’s secular activities.
Private schools, which are often associated with a religion, don’t have to display the poster or, presumably, embody its ideals.
France has been a secular state since 1905 so it’s only taken 108 years to get around to having this, in my opinion, rather good idea of letting the children know the advantages of living under such a regime.
You can take a look at the Charter for yourself here.
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