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France

French press review 7 December 2016

media

You might have expected Bernard Cazeneuve, the man who takes over from Manuel Valls as French prime minister, to be the main item of interest in this morning's papers. In fact, he is obliged to play second fiddle to the news that French secondary education appears to be making no progress in the international rankings.

Right-wing Le Figaro gives top priority to the news that French education continues to trail behind the standards of most developed countries.

In the latest Pisa tests, administered to 15-year-olds in the 35 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, France is placed 26th for the teaching of science. That means that things have not improved at all in the world's fifth most powerful economy, ranked 26th in the last Pisa ratings, published in 2013.

Singapore has the best overall results, coming first in the science, maths and reading tests. The Asian island is followed by Japan. Estonia is the top European nation, in third place, followed by Finland, down from top spot last time to fifth this year. Taiwan, Macao, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China complete the top 10, and confirm Asian dominance.

Not so much a school problem, a social one

Left-leaning Libération also looks at the Pisa results, wondering why France is stuck in the bottom half of the world rankings.

The underlying fact, according to Libé, is that French education is profoundly unfair and unequal.

The very best students, coming from good homes and attending good schools, are well placed to compete with the best in the world. But French kids from difficult backgrounds are four times more likely to suffer academically.

That's well above the average for the 35 OECD states. Only two percent of youngsters coming from unfavourable backgrounds make it into the top group of Pisa test performers.

A dramatic way to boost your charisma

Le Monde's science pages reveal that public figures have a tendency to become more charismatic . . . after death.

That apparently contradictory observation emerged when two groups of people were asked to read the biography of the American biologist Richard Din, who died in 2012 at the age of 25 from a self-inflicted infection while trying to find a vaccine against meningitis.

One group read the true story, the others got the life without the death, their version omitting the crucial detail that Din killed himself in his crusade against the disease. Dead Din was considered to be far more charismatic than his living self.

The researchers conclude that charisma isn't simply something you have - it is is also a social or cultural construct.

By studying over two million press and audiovisual reports, the same researchers discovered that Pope John Paul ll showed the greatest increase in post-mortem charisma, followed by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. And the effect is clear and positive even for Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi or the Syria's Hafez Al-Assad.

Estate agents happy to see the end is nigh for François Hollande

Business daily La Tribune says that French estate agents won't be sorry to see the end of the François Hollande presidency.

Yesterday, when Housing Minister Emmanuel Cosse told the annual meeting of the National Federation of Estate Agents that the past five years had seen huge advances in the sector, La Tribune says her audience was clearly not on the same page.

Housing professionals are, among other things, worried about the increasing influence of internet sales platforms, which don't have the same overheads or obligations as traditional estate agents. The minister has promised to change the law to cover the internet.

And it helps that the market is currently booming, with a record number of transactions completed in 2016.

A parting word on the new man at the helm

Catholic La Croix looks at Bernard Cazeneuve, the new French prime minister, and finds a safe pair of hands attached to a man known for his loyalty, seriousness and solidity.

Cazeneuve is 53-years-old and has seen duty in the interior, European affairs and finance ministries.

A lawyer by training and a former member of the French Court of Justice which is supposed to judge government members who break the law while in office, Cazeneuve is known for his dry tone and measured responses.

The next six months are probably not going to be a barrel of laughs.

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