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School uniforms return to French town in pilot scheme to tackle inequality

In Béziers, France, a pilot program has reintroduced school uniforms at four schools with around 700 students to assess whether they can reduce social inequality and enhance classroom behavior.
This initiative, which could go national if successful, marks the first such move since France stopped requiring uniforms in 1968.

Education Minister Nicole Belloubet noted that while the majority of the 92 participating schools are low-key, Béziers' far-right leadership is actively addressing high unemployment by co-funding the €200 uniform cost. The uniform includes a navy blazer, white polo shirts, a grey pullover, trousers, and applicable shorts or skirts.

Mayor Robert Menard believes the uniforms will curb bullying by making economic differences less obvious. However, the teachers' union SE-Unsa criticized the move as an ineffective solution to deeper educational issues.

Despite a mix of nationwide support and opposition—including a rejected proposal in Marseille and a retracted decision in Plouisy—the debate on uniforms persists.

Critics argue that uniforms won't eliminate discrimination and argue that investing in education quality is more vital. The conversation, reignited periodically since Napoleon introduced uniforms for discipline in 1802, continues with various political figures and the first lady voicing diverse opinions.

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