The experimental scheme, baptised the “ABCD of equality”, was introduced in 600 classes in 275 primary schools last autumn. The Education Minister Benoît Hamon announced on Monday that from September the “action plan” would be extended across the country from nursery schools to secondary schools. He said that up to 330,000 teachers would be trained to instruct boys and girls that they are equal and should have equal opportunities to study and work.
The policy had been trialed at 275 schools and had come under attack from Roman Catholic leaders, the French far right, and some parents´ groups. Critics say the plan is insulting to professions that have been traditionally female, and expressed fear that it promoted a supposed gender theory that would deny any differences between boys and girls.
Officials said teachers would receive new training when the new school year begins in September, and that they will be able to decide how to broach the topic of fairness for the sexes, especially with the youngest students.
Education Minister Benoit Hamon insisted that the government´s goal is "not to deny a difference" but to show that boys and girls "are equal."
Feminist groups denounced the backtracking, while others welcomed Monday´s decision. Furthermore, the leftist government has faced pressure from conservative Catholics, Muslims and the resurgent far right over various issues.
In February, tens of thousands of demonstrators protested over a reform to family rights in France, accusing the government of being "family-phobic." A few weeks later, controversy erupted on "skirt day," an anti-sexism initiative in which male students are invited to attend classes wearing skirts.