France will prohibit students from bringing cell phones to primary, junior, and middle schools, beginning in September 2018.
The move was announced by the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer during a Dec. 10 television interview. It had been a campaign promise of President Emmanuel Macron.
“These days, the children don’t play at break time anymore,” Blanquer said. “They are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view, that’s a problem.”
“You may need it for educational purposes, for emergency situations, so cell phones must be confined,” Blanquer said, as quoted by Le Monde.
France already prohibits the use of mobile phones during classes. The new policy will prohibit their use during free time as well.
Le Monde said that many teachers are alarmed by the “scourge” of mobile phones at school and the “endless war” of trying to dissuade students from using them during school hours. A 2015 student found that more than 80% of teenagers have smartphones, compared to 20% in 2011.
But the implementation of the new policy is expected to be complicated, raising objections from teachers unions out of respect for parents’ choices, and school employees, who don’t want to spend their time searching students’ bags, the newspaper said.
Other school districts have run into difficulties imposing such a ban as well. Michael Bloomberg tried it in 2006, when he was mayor of New York City. But parents complained that they couldn’t get in touch with their kids during the day, and in 2015 Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed his predecessor’s ban, citing inequity (the policy was more heavily used in schools with metal detectors, which tend to be poorer).
Currently, New York City principals devise their own mobile phone policies, according to an article on the website of the World Economic Forum, which added:
Research is on Bloomberg—and the French government’s—side. According to a 2015 working paper published by the London School of Economics, schools that banned mobile phones saw test scores for their 16-year-olds improve by 6.4%, or the equivalent of adding five days to the school year. “We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most,” economists Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy told the BBC.