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The role of the Ministry of Culture is to initiate, regulate and support cultural programmes, initiatives and policies aimed at young people, such as the Artistic and Cultural Education policy which is one of the Ministry's priorities, at the centre of cultural policies in favor of youth. The Artistic Cultural Education is covered by a Charter for Artistic and Cultural Education (charte pour l’Education artistique et culturelle). This policy is based on an approach involving multiple partners, calling on the Ministry of National Education, local authorities and associations. It is aimed at fostering equal access for all schoolchildren to art through creative practice and the acquisition of an artistic culture.
Artistic and cultural education is now compulsory since the Guidance and Planning Law of 8 July 2013 for restructuring French schools. It is also enshrined as one of the fundamental missions of certified facilities under agreement with the Ministry of Culture (Law No. 2016-925 of 7 July 2016 on the freedom of creation, on architecture and on heritage).
The Government continues since 2018 to strengthen artistic and cultural education by implementing a joint action plan between the Ministry of National Education and Youth and the Ministry of Culture : the plan for "Arts and Culture in Schools" (plan À l’école des arts et de la culture) aims to provide children and young people between the ages of 3 and 18 with an artistic learning path.
The plan should make arts and culture a key focus in schools as "this enables pupils to develop each of their five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) as well as their practical understanding of reality". The intention, therefore, is to provide an artistic, cultural and sensory education - EACS (éducation artistique, culturelle et sensorielle) at the different times in a child’s day: at school, at after-school and during extracurricular activities.
The implementation of the plan will continue in 2021.
More broadly speaking, cultural youth policies are aimed at democratising culture and cultural practices, and at helping young people to get personally to grips with their cultural heritage.
The purpose of the Artistic and Cultural Education policy is "to foster, for each child, access to the arts and culture in all their forms, to help to build personal judgement and awareness with a view to developing critical thinking, and to endeavour to pass on the basics of a genuine humanist culture likely to open minds up to the diversity of arts and thought".
The plan sets out to expand:
- children’s artistic knowledge,
- artistic practice,
- encounters with artists and artworks.
It also sets out to reduce inequality of access to artistic practices for children. Access to cultural activities is highly unequal and is partly conditioned by the social environment and places where children and young people live. According to the Government, "developing the arts in schools and during after-school time falls under the requirement for Republican equality".
To achieve these objectives, the Ministries of Culture, and National Education and Youth, have identified three practices to be developed as a priority in primary and secondary schools:
- musical practice,
- reading (books),
- the theatre.
Each year, in primary schools, schoolchildren will have:
- devoted 10% of their school time to artistic learning and practices,
- experienced at least two cultural highlights: - a visit to a cultural establishment (museum, cinema, etc.), - a show (theatre, dance, concert, opera, circus arts), - a visit to a heritage monument (castle, church, washhouse, statue of Jesus on the cross, industrial heritage, etc.) - an encounter with a designer or performer,
- borrowed books from a school or community library each week,
- sung in their school choir.
Each year, in lower secondary school, students will have:
- followed lessons in artistic education,
- taken a weekly oral skills class, which will help kick-start new momentum for drama groups to become widespread,
- experienced at least two cultural highlights: a visit to a cultural establishment (museum, cinema, etc.), a show (theatre, dance, concert, opera, circus arts), a visit to a heritage monument (castle, church, washhouse, statue of Jesus on the cross, industrial heritage, etc.), an encounter with a designer or performer,
- benefited from a workshop on media and information literacy,
- if they wish, sung in a choir and attended a weekly screening of a heritage film.
Each year, in upper secondary schools (lycées), students will be able to:
- take part in a research and creativity workshop (music, dance, theatre, etc.) in partnership with cultural networks,
- attend a weekly film showing.
In addition, as part of the Wednesday Plan (plan Mercredi), primary schoolchildren can benefit from cultural activities. The Wednesday Plan aims to provide children and families with a wide range of extracurricular activities and to support the development of high-quality after-school clubs run by willing local authorities.
Willing local authorities can organise "Wednesday Plans based 100% on Artistic and Cultural Education". In such cases, local authorities must ensure, for example, that all students receive the equivalent of 2 hours’ artistic practice by developing an artistic learning path during after-school and extracurricular time that is in line with the school schedule.
The responsible authorities depend on the initiatives or projects being rolled out for young people: they may be the Ministry of Culture, local authorities or may involve shared responsibility between the stakeholders concerned (See 8.2 Cross-sectorial cooperation)
The Artistic and Cultural Education policy comes under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of National Education. The HCEAC - High Council for Artistic and Cultural Education (Haut Conseil de l’Éducation Artistique et Culturelle) also has a role to play.
Set up in November 2005 with a view to promoting the arts in schools, the HCEAC's missions encompass advice, discussions and foresight. Its role and members are defined by the Decree of 28 August 2013. It now has 24 members appointed by ruling for a three-year term: representatives of government departments, local authorities (associations of elected representatives) and specialists appointed on account of their expertise (from the education or culture spheres for example).
The Council is chaired by the Minister of National Education and the Minister of Culture.
One of the Council's missions is to monitor the development and roll-out of artistic and cultural education policies in their various dimensions (educational, budgetary and partership aspects).
In July 2017, the Government (formed on 21 June 2017) confirmed its commitment to giving 100% of children access to the artistic and cultural learning path. The Ministries of Culture, Education and Higher Education have underscored the importance of artistic and cultural education at all levels of education – from infant school right up to doctoral level – and above all their intention to draw particular attention to music, to promote the importance of books and reading in learning matters and to better factor in art and culture in teacher training courses.
The President of the Republic has committed to ensuring that all children benefit from a "coherent and challenging cultural learning path", and to fulfilling the target of 100% that he would like to achieve through the a gradual implementation of the plan over the five-year term.