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French Ban on Cellphones in Schools

Nine out of 10 children under the age of 16 have a mobile phone, according to research done by the research center, Stewart Group.

In France, when students go back to school next fall in September 2018, cellphones will be banned for students 15 and under. The French Ministry of Education is currently tightening the ban on cellphones for elementary and secondary school students, with the exception of educational purposes and emergencies.

The French had already banned the use of cellphones in class in elementary and secondary schools since 2010. Phones are usually stored in backpacks, but these measure don’t seem to be very efficient, “It is extremely difficult to get respect,” said Valerie Sipahimalani, teacher and deputy secretary general of the National Union of Secondary School Teachers.

The Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer claimed: “These days the children don’t play at break time anymore; they are just all in front of their smartphones, and from an educational point of view, that’s a problem”. He declared this was a matter of “public health”, and that students will not be allowed to use their cellphones in lunch or between classes. He added that “with principals, teachers and parents, we need to find ways to protect our students from the dispersion of screens and phones. In the Council of Ministers, we put our cell phones in lockers before we meet. It seems to me that this is feasible for any human group, including a class”.

The ban of cellphones in school was a campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron. Now, the President and the government have been trying to achieve this, the French education minister commented that “We are working on this issue, and it can take different forms…you may need a mobile phone, for example, for educational purposes, for emergency situations, so perhaps the phones can be confined somewhere inside the school”. The phones may be confined to lockers, or collected in class. However, others seem to oppose these measures.

A French parents’ association called PEEP, stated that the ban was a “a horrendous logistical problem” and fears that this will increase tension in classrooms. Gerard Pommier, the group’s president argued, “let’s imagine an establishment of 500 students: Where will we store the phones and how to ensure that each student will find his smartphone at the end of the course?”. In addition, PEEP’s last president, Valérie Marty claimed, “You have to live with your time…the adults themselves are not always exemplary with their phones”.

Some parents believe a signal blocker would be more efficient; calculations reveal that three million lockers would be necessary to store all cell phones, a difficult situation considering there is not much space in the city center schools. Education officials are still calculating a way to put this into action. Nevertheless, Blanquer believes this an important social debate, a matter of public health, that should be seriously discussed.

The positive effects of cellphone bans on education are not new. According to the Guardian, studies show that “the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week’s schooling over a pupil’s academic year”, as stated by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. However, finding a way to put such ban into action may be harder than it was first considered.

What do you think? Is this an appropriate measure? Should cellphones be banned in schools?

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