From September 2018, French students will be prohibited from using mobile phones in primary, junior and middle schools. While phones are already forbidden in French classrooms, the rule change now means that pupils will also be barred from taking out their phones during breaks, at lunch, or between lessons.
The French education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer announced the ban, calling it a matter of “public health.”He said, “these days, the children don’t play at break time anymore. They are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view, that’s a problem.” He added, “we are currently working on this [ban] and it could work in various ways. Phones may be needed for teaching purposes or in cases of emergency so mobile phones will have to be locked away.”
The news has not been received well, the teachers union, parents and (naturally) students all seem to be unhappy about the ban. “This new announcement from the [education] ministry leaves us dubious because we’re having trouble understanding what is the real issue here. In general, we’re used to them being logical and pragmatic about things, and here, we can’t find the logic or the pragmatism in the announcements,” said Philippe Vincent, the union’s deputy general secretary. One parent, Sabine, said: “It’s probably a good idea when the kids are in school, but they can’t ban them bringing them to school,” said Sabine. “My daughter goes to school and comes home on her own, and at this time of year it’s dark so early, so I want her to have a phone with her. It’s reassuring.” She added: “But rather than a ban, wouldn’t it be better to install a signal blocker in schools?”
It is not yet clear how the ban will work in reality, with issues to be resolved including where pupils can keep their phones and whether teachers will have to search their students. Blanquer seems unphased by the discontent. Earlier this year he said, ”in ministerial meetings, we leave our phones in lockers before going. It seems to me that this as doable for any human group, including a class.” But one headmaster in Marseille, southern France, said he remained unconvinced by this “so-called miracle solution”, saying that phones could get mixed up, lost or stolen. “If they are switched off at the bottom of the bag, then it works,” he said.