Gender equality teaching out, new non-binding measures in
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France is to replace a controversial gender-equality school program with non-compulsory teacher-training measures. The measures replace the so-called "ABCD of Equality"-a program promoting equality between boys and girls, but which some parents feared would erase gender differences.
"I want to stop the classroom from being used as a battlefield," Education Minister Benoit Hamon said on Monday, as he presented his new "plan of action" to replace gender equality teaching.
The "ABCD" of equality is currently being tested in 600 classrooms, but from September it will give way to alternate teacher-training measures, none of which are compulsory.
The government says its decision is not another backdown, but critics say it is. They argue authorities have caved in to pressure-yet again- from conservative religious groups, who claim gender equality teaching was meant to confuse children about their identities.
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 differences" but to show that boys and girls "are equal." However he said that given the "electric" atmosphere in France, now was not the time to promote gender-equality education.
The leftist government has faced mounting pressure from conservative Catholics, Muslims and the resurgent far right following a harsh battle over gay marriage; with many feeling it has compromised on traditional values.
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