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Pupils to learn ethical code

As teachers return to schools, minister says that youngsters should know the rules of society

LEARNING the difference between right and wrong, rights and responsibilities, virtues and faults will be a core part of French schooling from next year.

Education Minister Vincent Peillon said in a weekend interview that pupils from primary through to final year will get classes in secular ethics morale laïque from September 2013 as a way of teaching them how to "live together".

That will not mean pupils saluting the flag each morning or standing up when teachers enter the classroom, however, he did say that he would like to see pupils learning La Marseillaise.

He said there were certain core values of the republic that he wanted children to understand and accept, one of which was religious tolerance but it went beyond instruction in civic values, he told Journal du Dimanche more towards the "creation of a citizen" - someone who knows the rules of society and respects others.

A think-tank would be set up to report on the next few months on how the classes would be structured and on how they would be taught.

However, parents' body the Fédération des Parents d'Elèves de l'Enseignement Public has warned that schools should be careful not to encroach on the domain of parents.

As around 850,000 teachers return to work today more than 13,000 have been laid off over the summer - the sixth year in a row that teaching jobs have been slashed.

The Sarkozy government had cut 80,000 teaching posts since 2007 but the new government says that education is not a "cost" on society but an investment and President Hollande promised the creation of 60,000 jobs during his term in office.

France's 12.1million pupils return to school tomorrow.
Photo: Dmitry Kudryavtsev - Fotolia.com

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