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Education measures

France approves a plan to introduce more courses in English at universities


Most members of the National Assembly, France´s lower house, backed the controversial proposal – the second article of a higher education bill that is expected to sail through the left-wing dominated lower house and Senate.

A majority of lawmakers in the National Assembly approved the second article of a bill on higher education in a show-of-hands vote.

The full bill is expected to be approved in the Assembly and the upper house Senate, where the ruling Socialists and their left-wing allies have majorities.Higher Education Minister Genevieve Fioraso hailed the adoption of the measure as a step forward for French education.

The vote followed two hours of heated debate, with lawmakers from the main right-wing opposition UMP saying the measure threatens France´s identity.

"A people that speaks a foreign language more and more loses its identity piece by piece," UMP lawmaker Jacques Myard said.

But Socialist lawmaker Thierry Mandon called the controversy "a storm in a teacup" and accused opponents of having "a phobia of foreign students".

The measure, which would also introduce lessons in languages other than English, aims to increase the number of foreign students at universities from 12 percent of the total to 15 percent by 2020.

Critics say it will harm efforts to protect the French language, while supporters argue it will improve the employability of French youth and the attractiveness of the country´s universities.

Several unions, public figures and the influential Academie Francaise, set up in 1635 and the official authority on the language, attacked the measure.

France has for decades zealously propagated the use of French both at home and abroad through cultural institutions and the French-speaking Francophonie bloc of nations.

Education unions and the Academie Francaise, the influential guardian of the French language, have attacked the measure, but to no avail.

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