School mobile phone ban ‘En Marche’ through French parliament
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The National Assembly has backed a bill by President Emmanuel Macron, which proposes a blanket ban on mobile phone use by school students.
The policy was included among Macron’s campaign promises during his 2017 presidential campaign.
According to the bill, more than 90 per cent of French children above the age of 12 have their own phone and many teachers complain of students messaging each other and using social media using lessons. While half of French primary schools and a number of middle schools already have policies restricting the use of phones in lessons, there is currently no national policy on the use of phones in schools.
The policy requires children up to the age of 15 to keep their phones out of sight while on their school’s premises. It does not specify what punishments students could face for their use in school.
The bill was amended soon before the vote, with the phone ban being extended to school teachers. Teachers have argued that their inclusion is patronising and could cut off their primary means of communication during emergencies.
Despite the controversial last-minute amendment, the National Assembly – which is held by a large majority by Macron’s En Marche! party – voted on Thursday in favour of the amended bill. If the bill passes through the Senate without obstruction, the policy could come into force by the time French students return to school in September.
“Being open to technologies of the future doesn’t mean we have to accept all their uses,” Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, told Parliament. Blanquer has referred to the policy as a “detox measure” fit for the modern digital age.
He claims that it could help combat bullying, phone theft and obsession with brands and appearance, as well as improve concentration in the classroom. Other supporters of the policy have cited issues surrounding easy access to pornography from a young age and the impact of heavy phone use on social bonding.
“Mobile phones are a technological advance, but they cannot monopolise our lives,” Blanquer commented on La Chaîne Info, a broadcast news channel. “You can’t find your way in a world of technology if you can’t read, write, count, respect others and work in a team.”
Opponents of the ban have argued that it could prove difficult to enforce, with nothing to stop students using their phones secretly in their rucksacks and during toilet breaks, while Socialist Party MP Michèle Victory described the policy as a superficial change.