Based in Barcelona, business lawyer Jean-Michel Nogueroles is launching an online petition to demand free education in French establishments abroad. He denounces the logic of privatization disguised as this network – through the increase in the enrollment of families – has become a machine to exclude French children abroad. Interview.
Why apply for free French education abroad?
Jean-Michel Nogueroles: It is, first of all, an ethical and philosophical reason: part of the principle that there is a French culture, today threatened by discourses and the political will of “deconstruction”, linked to “awakened” thought and movement. These attacks are combined with those of the great powers such as China or the United States, which impose themselves with less scruples to the detriment of this French universalist vision inherited from the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. A culture brought precisely by education, in France, but also in the world, through a community of more than three million French people living abroad. Therefore, facilitating access to French education for all these families reinforces the values of this universalism. It is also an idea cherished by Jules Ferry, a thought rooted in the Republican current, which in the past was classified on the left, the center-left more precisely, and which today finds its proponents rather in the center-right. But it is, in short, an idea of education to which all those who are bound by the principles of our Republic can adhere.
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Are young French people excluded from this education abroad today?
In fact, and more and more. Today, we find ourselves in a situation where more and more parents are having a hard time taking on the ever-increasing tuition fees at French institutes abroad. A category of population not poor enough to access scholarships, the amount of which is ridiculous, but which can not afford expenses per child of the order of 6,000 or 7,000 € per year. Especially when there are two or three children. Families who are thus forced to withdraw their children from French establishments, to deprive them of a French education. That is why I decided to launch a large online petition, open to everyone, French or not, to mobilize in favor of wider support for the enrollment rates of young French people in these establishments.
French people living abroad are not privileged
Why should French taxpayers bear the cost of this funding?
It is, first and foremost, a principle of equity and freedom of access to education for all French children, wherever they may be. But I take advantage of the question to recall a reality that deserves to be better known when it comes to taxation: the public revenue of the non-resident center comes close to one billion euros of revenue for the French Ministry of Finance! I’m not saying this, it’s a report from the Senate of 2018, which adds up to the income tax of non-residents -720 M € – and the receipts of the real estate tax of these non-residents -170 million euros-. , that is, already close to 900 million euros! To this must be added the inheritance tax that non-residents must pay to the French state. Therefore, we are very close to one billion euros of annual revenue! Compared to the endowment of 417 million euros for the operation of the AEFE
and 105 million euros in scholarships. We see that the reasoning behind this funding backed by the Hexagon taxpayer does not hold at the accounting level. Beyond a vision that can also be very restrictive in the education of young French people.
Should we question the current management system of French establishments abroad?
There is obviously a problem of opacity in the management of these establishments. And the ongoing lawsuits as evidenced by the numerous recriminations of the Court of Auditors. Including a court decision at least having acknowledged the materiality of the facts despite the prescriptions. The recent strike by teachers also highlights the unrest within a network that is not subject to the same control as national education, the operation of which can be discussed, but which has the merit of transparency. We have created overlapping layers and administrative structures that generate opacity in the management of the establishments of the AEFE network. Therefore, a system overhaul is needed.
Does it refer to the way the French are perceived abroad?
In fact, it is linked to this misconception of a privileged community as François Hollande designated it when he decided to end free French education abroad in 2012. Which is obviously completely disconnected from the reality. Contrary to the idea of a well-paid expatriate backed by a multinational, most French people living abroad today are workers who have entered into an employment contract under local law. In 80% of cases, they are French from all walks of life with all kinds of jobs, employees or self-employed, families whose tuition fees are therefore not paid by an international company, but in their charge. And about a third of these families are now at risk of exclusion from the French education system.