On December 10, France’s education minister announced that they are banning mobile phones from primary, junior, and middle schools. France’s Ministry of Education called the ban a matter of public health.
France’s education system has already banned mobile phones in classrooms, but starting September 2018, they will also ban students from using mobile phones during breaks, whether at lunch or between lessons.
Banning mobile phones
“These days, the children don’t play at break time anymore,” Jean-Michel Blanquer said in a statement published in The Local, an English-language publication. “They are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view, that’s a problem.”
The London School of Economics published a 2015 working paper which said schools that banned mobile phones saw test scores for their 16-year-olds improve by 6.4%, 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.
Some people don’t like it
According to The Guardian, the public did not receive the announcement well. The teachers union, parents, and (obviously) students took the news with some frustration. The ban will likely require teachers to search students and ensure their phones are left in their lockers.
“How is the school going to stock them? And how are they going to make sure they’re given back to the owner at the end of school?” asked Gérard Pommier, head of the Federation of Parents in State Schools.
“In ministerial meetings, we leave our phones in lockers before going in,” Blanquer said in September, unperturbed by the criticism. “It seems to me that this is doable for any human group, including a class.”
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted a similar mobile phone ban in 2006. However, parents complained of inconsistent enforcement, saying they could not contact their children.
Bloomberg’s successor, Bill de Blasio, lifted the ban in 2015, citing unfair enforcement. He said schools with metal detectors were more likely to uphold the ban, but these schools were located in poorer neighbourhoods trying to prevent the influx of firearms.
At present, New York City principals have devised their own strategies on mobile phone policies. Some schools went back to their default standard policy: students can bring their phones to school as long as the phones stay out of sight.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, proposed a ban on mobile phones in school during his campaign earlier this year.