SCHOOL summer holidays should be shortened by two weeks to help reduce the number of hours children spend in classes every day, a committee has recommended.
The group, set by up education minister Luc Chatel to look at possible changes to the school year, says shorter days and cutting the two-month-long summer break will improve pupils' performance.
Parents, teachers and doctors have criticised the current system of long hours over a four-day week, which they say harms children's chances of success because it is too tiring.
Under the new proposal, the school year would be extended from 36 to 38 weeks, with the number of hours of classes cut to between five and six hours a day, depending on the age group.
There would be more after-school activities for children whose parents work, and the decision on whether to reinstate classes on a Wednesday morning or a Saturday morning would be made at local level.
The summer holiday start date would be staggered by geographical zones - as is currently the case with the February half-term and Easter holidays - to help cut road congestion and even out the demand for holiday accommodation.
The idea does not have the unanimous support of everyone on Chatel's 16-member committee. Le Figaro says some members are concerned that teachers would not have enough of a break, as some of their summer is spent marking exams and preparing lessons for the coming year.
There are also concerns that the staggered start dates would penalise children whose parents are separated and live in different zones.
The committee has two meetings left before its final report is due to be published at the end of June. If approved, any changes would come into force in September 2013.
Meanwhile, the education ministry has launched a new recruitment campaign to hire 17,000 teachers to start in September - mostly in secondary schools - as part of its policy to replace half of the teachers who are due to retire this summer.