France's Constitutional Council rejects bill permitting minority language schools

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's Constitutional Council struck down a bill allowing schools to teach the majority of the day in minority languages such as Basque, Breton and Corsican, saying the plan was unconstitutional.

State-funded schools can already provide bilingual education, but in April France's parliament approved a bill allowing primary schools to teach the majority of school subjects in a regional language, while also teaching French.

But the education ministry appealed the bill, arguing that so-called "immersive teaching" could mean that children do not reach the required level of French language skills.

The "Molac bill", named after MP Paul Molac from Brittany who championed the legislation, was aimed at boosting regional languages, which also include Catalan and Creole.

"The Council's censure is incomprehensible for the regions. We must stop being afraid of regional languages, we should protect, cherish, and save them," Molac said on his Twitter feed.

The Council, France's highest constitutional authority which must approve all new legislation, ruled that the bill was out of line with article two of the French constitution, which stipulates that the language of the French republic is French.

For the same reason the council also struck down the bill's proposal to allow non-French so-called diacritical marks such as the tilde, in official documents.

The French language has several such diacritic marks, such as the acute, grave and circumflex accents and the double-dot trema on several vowels, as well as the cedilla under the letter c, notably in the word français.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Editing by Angus MacSwan)