France: Government abandons teaching gender equality after boycott
The French government has cancelled school lessons that aimed to fight gender stereotypes.
Many parents had taken their children out of school in protest at the lessons.
The ABCD of Equality program was launched last September and trialled at 275 schools.
The government said the lessons were to promote equality and deconstruct prejudice.
Education minister Benoit Haman told France Inter radio: “We want to prevent anyone from forming the conviction at school that there would be… jobs and training and diplomas for girls, and jobs and training and diplomas for boys.”
The program was opposed by an alliance including the far-right National Front – who came first in the country’s European elections last month – alongside the Catholic Church and Muslim religious leaders.
Opponents said the lessons were teaching children that there were no differences between boys and girls and that this was dangerous.
The government has denied teaching gender theory or that there are no innate differences between boys and girls.
Parents organised school boycotts by text message and up to 40% of pupils were missing in some schools on boycott days.
France’s Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, told France 3 television that the scheme’s replacement would be an “improved” version of the original and would apply to all schools.
Teaching unions have said that fears over the scheme are unfounded but that the hostile reaction to the program has put teachers in a difficult position.