World

French govt plan to overhaul unequal schools prompts teachers' strike and conservatives' ire

  • French education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem answers questions of  younger students at a French local radio station in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 19 2015.  France's government, fearing that inequality among schoolchildren threatens the education system and the country's future, is proposing an overhaul that would end elite bilingual programs in middle school and give individual schools more say in how students spend their time. ( AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

    French education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem answers questions of younger students at a French local radio station in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 19 2015. France's government, fearing that inequality among schoolchildren threatens the education system and the country's future, is proposing an overhaul that would end elite bilingual programs in middle school and give individual schools more say in how students spend their time. ( AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)  (The Associated Press)

  • French education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem arrives at  French local radio station to answers questions of  younger students,  in Paris, France. Tuesday, May 19 2015.  France's government, fearing that inequality among schoolchildren threatens the education system and the country's future, is proposing an overhaul that would end elite bilingual programs in middle school and give individual schools more say in how students spend their time. ( AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

    French education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem arrives at French local radio station to answers questions of younger students, in Paris, France. Tuesday, May 19 2015. France's government, fearing that inequality among schoolchildren threatens the education system and the country's future, is proposing an overhaul that would end elite bilingual programs in middle school and give individual schools more say in how students spend their time. ( AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)  (The Associated Press)

  • Teachers and education employees wear hats reading "pseudo intellectual" during a demonstration to protest government plans to reform the education system, in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. France is proposing education reforms that would end elite bilingual programs and give schools more say in how students spend their time, a move to fight the inequality in education that threatens the country's future. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

    Teachers and education employees wear hats reading "pseudo intellectual" during a demonstration to protest government plans to reform the education system, in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. France is proposing education reforms that would end elite bilingual programs and give schools more say in how students spend their time, a move to fight the inequality in education that threatens the country's future. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)  (The Associated Press)

France's government, fearing that inequality among schoolchildren threatens the education system and the country's future, is proposing an overhaul that would end elite bilingual programs in middle school and give individual schools more say in how students spend their time.

The plan from the Socialist-led government came after an international study ranked France among the developed world's most unequal school systems, with student performance highly dependent upon student's socio-economic status. But the plan has drawn criticism from both left-leaning teachers' unions and from French conservatives in a debate that mirrors discussions across the United States.

Middle-school teachers were striking Tuesday. The government wants to add multidisciplinary classes and cut a well-respected bilingual program in favor of expanding foreign language classes to a broader range of younger students.