Society

France To Its Foreign Graduates: Here's Your Degree, Now Bon Voyage

In France, a controversial new decree is wreaking havoc among foreign-born francophone students who arrived looking to enter the global elite via the country's top universities. Now that they have their degrees, they are being told to leave. Is t

Students at Paris' elite liberal arts institution Sciences Po (Knowtex)
Students at Paris' elite liberal arts institution Sciences Po (Knowtex)
Jacqueline de Linarès

PARIS - Is the future of the international French-speaking elite likely to start snubbing France?

As usual, hundreds of top foreign-born graduates from the best French universities – engineering schools, business schools like HEC, social sciences institutions like Sciences Po — have been hired to prestigious positions over the last six months. But over the past few weeks, these same students have started receiving letters coming from local authorities forbidding them to work in France. Faced with a general outcry from the Grandes Ecoles, France's network of elite universities, the French government pledged to review the decree.

Nevertheless, Nihal, a 24 year-old student from Morocco, has been worried sick after receiving the ominous letter. She had been awarded an excellence scholarship by the French government so that she could come study engineering at the INSA Grande Ecole in Lyon; and upon graduation was hired by an important consulting firm. But then came the letter, which stated that she could not retain her job due to "inadequacy between the training and the position."

It all sounds absurb, given that every year the most prominent consulting firms are desperate for young engineers to come and work for them. Nihal, in fact, had already been offered five positions from various highly prestigious firms. Now she is supposed to leave France -- by next week.

Canada and Germany are good alternatives

Sami, a 25 year-old Tunisian student, graduated from Paris's ESCP international business school and was also hired by an international consulting firm thanks to his skills in English and Arabic and his expertise of Gulf countries. But he too was prevented by local authorities from taking his position. He is now considering relocating to Canada or Germany to find a job.

These are some of the devastating effects of the "Guéant decree" that was passed on May 31, 2011, in which the Minister of the Interior Claude Guéant reminded French prefects to keep the door shut to foreign job-seekers. Since October, the governement has been trying to play down the disastrous consequences of the decree on France's prestige abroad. France's minister of higher education and research, Laurent Wauquiez, tried to explain that the text was "misunderstood." He also promised that all the cases submitted by the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE) would be reviewed by the end of the year.

Last week, an answer had already been found for 202 of the 530 cases filed, according to the CGE. French Prime Minister François Fillon also added that foreign students could still resort to the 2006 immigration law which allows them to get a first working experience in France. Still, the damage is done. Some graduates have already left France. One, an Indian-born graduate from a commerce school outside of Paris who'd hoped to create a start-up liking businesses between France and India, has chosen to settle in Germany instead.

It is also unsure whether reviewing files is going to put all these young people back on their feet in France. "We will base our judgment on evidence," says Pierre Aliphat, director general of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles. "Companies have not kept their promises," complains one of the students gathered together in a group dubbed the May 31 Collective for the day the law was passed.

At the end of the day, "as long as the government does not withdraw this decree, there's no way we can prevent a civil servant working at the préfecture from denying a foreign graduate permission to work here," says Pascal Codron, director of the ISA Lille school of Agricultural Engineering. "They must be rubbing their hands with glee in Germany and other countries where there's fierce competition for securing the best graduates."

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Photo – knowtex

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Society

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.


Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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