France goes for gold

June 15, 2001

Reforms to France's education system have encouraged the country to set its sights on taking the sporting lead in Europe.

Jack Lang, education minister, and Marie-George Buffet, minister for youth and sports, have announced plans to increase the importance of physical education and sports in higher education, and strengthen training programmes for those wanting to specialise in sports-related careers.

Tertiary studies connected with physical education and sports are increasingly in demand. The numbers of university students taking such courses at levels from the initial two-year diploma to doctorate have risen from 16,000 in 1993-94 to more than 45,000 this year.

Ten specialised post-masters sports-related degrees - such as applied biology and psychology in coaching and sports performance - have been created since 1999.

The reforms will allow baccalauréat candidates to choose two activities from about 20 - a list that can be adapted in some areas to include skiing in the Alps or pelota in the Basque country.

Links between schools and national sporting associations will be strengthened.

A physical education and sports department is to be set up in an école normale supérieure - a grande école that specialises in high-level teacher training and research.

Mr Lang said that this department would "permit France to recover the international influence it had at the beginning of the last century" when "the French method was the European example in the field".

It could become "the great European centre of physical education and sports which is currently lacking", he said.

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