The Minister of National Education announced on Monday a major training plan in secularism intended for all teachers in public education. An initiative that is not necessarily favorably received by teachers and unions. The latter fear a simple “announcement effect” and deplore, among other things, a lack of material resources.
Training to speak with one voice about secularism at school? Eight months after the assassination of Samuel Paty, the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced, Monday, June 14, a four-year secularism training plan for all teachers from the next school year in September. . A provision that follows the recommendations of a report by the former Inspector General of Education, Jean-Pierre Obin.
From the start of the school year, “1,000 trainers from all academies and all departments will benefit from reinforced and intensive training,” wrote the Ministry of National Education in a press release. “This network of trainers will then organize training in each school, college or high school, for all staff, whatever their status.”
This training plan, which should be accompanied this summer by a “common framework of skills and content for training in secularism”, nevertheless raises many questions among the teachers, already trained in these questions in the training centers of the teachers. They consider this plan vague and inapplicable due, in particular, to a lack of material resources.
Strengthening secularism is strengthening the Republic!
I would like to thank Jean-Pierre Obin for his report on staff training in the values of the Republic. Its main proposals will be incorporated into the plan @education_gouv secularism training from September. pic.twitter.com/SefSqQc75W
– Jean-Michel Blanquer (@jmblanquer) June 15, 2021
“You can’t learn it, it can be lived”
“We are very critical of these announcement effects”, answers Guislaine David, co-secretary general and spokesperson for the Unitary National Union of Teachers, School Teachers and PEGC (SNUipp-FSU), contacted by France 24. “Jean-Pierre Obin auditioned a few teachers, but there was no major survey made on the way in which teachers are trained, what they think of their teaching on secularism and how they are confronted, in their classes, to attacks on secularism, ”she explains.
The Inspector of National Education would also not have taken into account the territorial disparities. “He went to see some teachers and made it a general point to say ‘this is how secularism must be taught and implemented in training institutes.’ Except that all the territories and schools in France are not concerned with the same way “, specifies Guislaine David. “All these important questions that should be asked of all teachers are never asked of all teachers,” continues the spokesperson for SNUipp-FSU, who deplores that her union was not consulted by the inspector general in during its investigation.
A plan of formation in secularism, then, but why? Guislaine David deplores a lack of consistency in the strategies put in place by the Ministry of National Education. “On the one hand, we are highlighting this secular training plan, and on the other, two years ago, we changed the EMC (moral and civic education) programs in the classes. passed from a program that allowed the values of the Republic to be brought to life, to a program that is formatted where students are asked to learn the symbols of the Republic, and where the flag and the words must be displayed of the Marseillaise in the classes, ”she explains. “However, we know, these values of the Republic, secularism, fraternity, it is also to develop the critical spirit, to understand the freedom of conscience, and that, that cannot be learned, that is lived”.
“INSPEs and universities are already doing it”
For the moment, the actors concerned have not received precise information relating to the content of this training. But Edwige Chirouter reminds us: training on secularism already exists in teacher training centers. This is why this philosophy teacher at the National Higher Institute for Teachers of Education (INSPE) in Nantes, is so skeptical. “I am waiting to see what it will be, beyond the effects of announcements which are a little contemptuous compared to what the INSPEs and the universities are already doing”, she reacts to France 24.
“Secularism is the heart of our activity”, adds the researcher, a specialist in philosophy with children, learning critical thinking and citizenship. “Our students are already trained on the three aspects of this question: the legislative, philosophical (reflexive) and practical aspect”, she specifies, wondering about the philosophical dimension of secularism which will be transmitted by this new plan training. “Will it be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ secularism? What types of practices will be valued among children? Will they be transmissive values, or will it be will act as active practices where children can reflect, think, discuss? What supports will be used? Moralistic supports, or reflective supports? Finally, who will lead these reflection modules? People who will relay the word of the ministry, or academics who will be freer? “asks Edwige Chirouter – who also specifies that she has not been asked.
“We won’t make it”
If this teaching is already an integral part of the training of first and second degree teachers, all disciplines combined, Guislaine David points to the possibility that this is not sufficient. “In my opinion, we need to strengthen these modules, more than redoing a new training plan,” she said. “Then, we must provide the means, because their plan is very ambitious but currently, we can not,” she continues, referring to the elimination for several years of continuing education, for lack of being able to replace the teachers who are ‘absent to follow them. “We can adopt a very ambitious plan on secularism, but materially, on the ground, we will not have the means to implement it”.
Among the proposals of the plan presented on Monday, and for which his union has obtained the specifications, Guislaine David takes the example of that providing for complete training which would make it possible to train a whole school team, at the same time, on the same day. “Materially, it has become impossible in our schools,” she replies. “When our teachers are in training, we have to replace them in the classes and we do not have enough replacements to replace during the continuing training courses. We know that it is something inapplicable, we will not succeed. not.”
Equal access to these training courses also raises questions. Full professors are often replaced by temporary staff who have not been trained in the INSPEs and who, in fact, have not received this teaching on secularism. Will these contract workers, like their regular colleagues, be trained under this plan? If so, who will replace them in class? “Should they be replaced by other replacements that will also have to be trained?”, Quips Edwige Chirouter. “It’s a vicious cycle. They wear out the staff to the end of the rope.”