France allows immersive teaching of regional languages in schools

·2-min read

France's Ministry of Education has confirmed the immersive teaching of regional languages has been authorised in public schools, after concerns were raised following a decision from the Constitutional Council in May.

The National Education Ministry this week published a circular assuring the immersive teaching of regional languages was possible, despite concerns that were raised when the Constiutional Council censured part of a law protecting the heritage of regional languages.

The so-called Molac Law was passed on 8 April, providing for the extension of optional regional language teaching in public education, in particular through immersive teaching in regional languages such as Basque, Breton, Occitan, Catalan and Alsatian.

The council – also known as the "Wise Men" – ruled that this article contravened Article 2 of the constitution, which stipulates that "the language of the Republic is French".

Widespread protests

Schools offering immersive teaching – such as Diwan in Breton, Ikastola in Basque or ABCM in Alsatian – provide most of their courses in the region's language.

They have the statute of "associations", mostly under contract with the state, and follow France's National Education curriculum.

Constitutional Council censure in May worried many defenders and proponents of regional languages, who feared for the survival of bilingual schools.

Several thousand people demonstrated on 29 May in Brittany, French Catalonia and the Basque Country to defend the schools.

On Thursday the Education Ministry stepped back, issuing a circulcar conceding that "immersion teaching" was a bilingual learning strategy that it supported and one that did not contradict "learning French".

This learning is assessed throughout the pupils' schooling, in particular during the ongoing assessments through primary school, which take into account the specificities of bilingual sections.

The text states that if the "level of mastery of French is insufficient, remedial solutions and support will be offered" to the pupils.

Protecting regional heritage

Peio Jorajuria, president of the Seaska federation of Basque schools, France Bleu Pays Basque: "As long as this circular exists, we are protected."

Under France's constitution, French must be the language of communication used by the staff of bilingual schools for parents and institutional partners.

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