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Non-contract Muslim schools in the sights of the authorities



They educate 85,000 children out of 12 million but are the subject of growing attention. Non-contract schools – private establishments whose teachers are not paid by the state and enjoy, in return, greater freedom – are at the heart of several articles of the bill reinforcing republican principles.

Nicknamed the “law against separatism”, this text will be presented to the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, December 9, in the middle of secularism. It does not affect the system of opening schools outside the contract: all that is required to create such an establishment is a declaration to the competent authorities. On the other hand, the bill opens the possibility for the prefectural and academic authorities to administratively close a school, without entering the prosecutor, in the event of abuses and serious and repeated breaches of the regulations (risks to public order, health, the physical or moral security of students, or even inadequate education, not in accordance with the objectives of compulsory education or not allowing the gradual acquisition of the common base).

Sanctions that are intended to be dissuasive

This provision is accompanied by sanctions, in particular up to one year of imprisonment and a € 75,000 fine if the principal or the school’s legal representative does not proceed or obstruct an administratively decided closure.

By strengthening its arsenal, two years after the Gatel law which harmonized and tightened the conditions for the opening of schools outside of contract while facilitating their control, the State wants to get out of a situation which often borders on powerlessness when an establishment multiplies legal remedies. In the past two years, the state has only been able to secure two non-contract school closures. And again, says the Ministry of Education, one, closed for educational reasons, had reappeared under another name, which in turn was the subject of temporary closures. In the other case, it was the decision taken by the authorities to automatically send students to another establishment that led to the bankruptcy and therefore the closure of the school. However, the ministry is careful not to specify how many others would have deserved, according to him, to be closed.

In recent years, the State has also, if not above all, been confronted with the existence of clandestine schools, by definition not inspected. “De facto” schools, as Jean-Michel Blanquer sometimes calls them. “There are families who have opted for home schooling [solution à l’avenir interdite, sauf exception, NDLR] but who, failing to do so, collectively ask an adult in their circle or a religious or cultural association to provide this teaching ”, indicates Anne Coffinier, president of Création son école, an association which promotes “academic freedom”.

In two years, only two “schools” of this type have been dismantled, one secular, the other Muslim, citing in the latter case hygiene problems. Here again, the future law will make it possible to resort to an administrative closure.

Between oneself

Implicitly, the new legislation primarily targets certain Muslim establishments. When they are clandestine, they often operate a problematic mixture between school and Koranic school ”, believes Didier Leschi, a senior civil servant specializing in worship and secularism. “As for schools outside the contract duly declared, sometimes created with the support of a state, Turkey for example, they can also be part of separatism. Because even if many follow the national education programs [elles n’y sont pas tenues, NDLR], they promote interpersonal skills ”, considers the man who now heads the French Office for Immigration and Integration.

An “inter-self” often inherent in the non-contract, contextualizes Bruno Poucet, professor of education sciences. “The rejection of any social, religious or ethnic mix is ​​part of its functions, alongside the promotion of alternative pedagogies and the care of failing students. ” As Didier Leschi notes, “Against a background of mistrust of public schools, many families express a demand for schools with a specific Muslim character, with the idea that children will be better kept there, girls better respected ”. The figures speak for themselves: in 2019, non-Muslim establishments – 91 in number – welcomed 9,000 students, compared to 4,800 three years earlier.

Schools that are however mostly in search of recognition and public funding, if we are to believe Makhlouf Mamèche: “Many of these schools want to sign a contract, as three of our establishments in Lille, Marseille and Lyon have already done entirely”, assures the president of the National Federation of Muslim Education. “None of our schools preach against the Republic. Separatism comes from the state, when it prevents our establishments from entering into contract ”, thunders the former vice-president of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France.

“As if we sanctioned the whole class because a student cheated”

“Here, we teach the common ground”, affirms for his part Sabar Kabbouchi, director of the Ibn-Badis school complex, in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine), created in 2015 under the aegis of an institute which also has a mosque and a social pole (maraude , distribution of packed lunches, etc.). “Our 215 students, from primary to final, work in French and also learn English and Arabic from CP onwards, followed in a modern language 2 from 6e. “ Likewise, “No constraint” in religious matters: “Those who want to pray pray, others don’t. Those who want to wear the veil wear it (and they are in the minority until 4e), the others do not. “ And this headteacher to deplore: “Some people abuse the freedoms that are given to us, but there it is as if the whole class was sanctioned because a student cheated. “

“Muslim schools are all communitarian in the sense that they want to transmit an identity, but they are not all radical, far from it, Anne Coffinier analysis. By pointing fingers at them collectively, we give them the feeling of stalking them. ” A “Stigma” which, she believes, casts more suspicion on the whole outside contract, made up for barely a third of denominational schools, which are half Catholic.

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Non-contract schools, a very diverse reality

Private education outside the contract brings together nearly 1,700 establishments (980 schools and 700 middle and high schools).

85,000 students are educated there, 50,000 in the first degree and nearly 35,000 in the secondary.

One third of the establishments are denominational in nature (half of them Catholic), a third concerns schools with alternative pedagogies, the last third consisting of secular schools with “classical” pedagogy.

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