During the month of April the streets of Pairs have looked very similar to the way they did during the student revolt of May, 1968.
SV Students' leaflets blowing in wind (3 shots)
TOP VIEW Students demonstrating
LV ZOOM TO Police firing teargas and students throwing stones (3 shots)
CU ZOOM OUT FORM School benches (2 shots)
SV PAN ALONG Electrical instruments in classroom TO Empty desks
GV PAN OVER Empty classroom TO Student leaders talking in groups (2 shots)
TOP GVs Students in mass demonstration (2 shots)
LV INT. Students attending physics lecture (3 shots)
SV Students sitting in grounds of university & GVs University building (3 shots)
SV Closed university gates
SV ZOOM OUT FROM Sign on building
SV High school pupils hold demonstration (4 shots)
SV French school children running along road with banners
SV Riot police and student demonstrators
GV Student demonstrators throwing stones at riot police (3 shots)
GV Riot police moving along road towards demonstrators
SV Students throwing stones as police approach them and students are arrested (3 shots)
"Eight springs ago, the same winds gushed through the campuses of Paris. A cyclone of discontent swept French students into a wave of protests flooding the streets with a carnival of riot. Strikes spread, barricades blazed, heads were broken, authority trembled. Everything was impossible. The agitation which has emptied French classrooms this past fortnight is still purely a student affair. It's about university courses, graduate degrees, educational qualification and jobs for university leavers. They are anxious and practical concerns which are reflected in the unflambuoyant character of this generation of student leaders. If the students wanted to show what's wrong with French higher education, they couldn't have chosen a more graphic way to demonstrate it. The root of the problem is that there are simply far too many students in France, more than in Britain and Germany combined. Despite the strikes, there is still a faithful handful attending physics lectures. But the 90 per cent who are boycotting the lectures and are out on the streets have literally nothing to lose because astonishingly, nine out of every 10 French students either drop out or fail their final degree. Disappointment is an integral part of the curriculum. It's an organised educational shipwreck designed to produce a handful of survivors. This makes campus number seven of the University of Paris a somewhat depressing place. In the last 12 months the government decided to take the educational system by the scruff of its unkempt neck. High school students like these would be streamed according to ability, the less gifted being encouraged to leave early and learn trades. This is one of the reasons why French school children have joined their student seniors in a campaign of strikes and demonstrations. If verbal provocation fails, the next stage in the classic ceremonial of demonstration is for the extremist elements to take more direct action The riot police then move in, truncheons flash, martyrs are made. The fury of tomorrow's
demonstration is assured."
Initials CL/1721 CL/1745
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: During the month of April the streets of Pairs have looked very similar to the way they did during the student revolt of May, 1968. Students prised up chunks of stone from the cobbled streets. They hurled bottles at police. Tear gas floated up to the blossoming trees. Riot squads slipped smoothly into wedge formation and charged at students.
This year's outbreak looks far less menacing than the uprising in May 1968 which paralysed the country - but no end is in sight. Almost all france's 800,000 students are affected. They are either taking an active part in protests against government education reforms or are prevented from working by a nationwide campus strike that has paralysed French university life.
The situation is uncomfortable for the government since a clear majority of presidents of the country's 75 universities have come down on the students' side.
They oppose government reforms aimed at changing the direction of university education so as to prepare students for entering the industrial economy.
At present, more than half the students follow cultural tradition by taking liberal arts courses. Teaching has always been a main outlet for these graduates. But because France has so many students there are not nearly enough jobs to go round in the present difficult economic situation, not even for teachers.
The weekly news magazine, Le Pointe, has noted: "The French university is an unemployment factory. It is the biggest machine imaginable for manufacturing the frustrated."
But despite deep student concern over unemployment, leftist-controlled student unions are determined to block the government reforms. They claim that the reforms will bring the universities under the yoke of management and industry.
"Keep the bosses off campus", "no to the University of Capitalism" and "we won't play the bosses' game" were some of the slogans chanted in protest marches in all major French cities.
The controversial scheme has three main goals: to double the number of professional job-training courses; to link future employers more closely to university programmes; and to channel students into courses relevant to job prospects during their second year at university.
Government leaders say the scheme is practical and the fierce opposition to it is purely political. They blame the left for the upheaval.
This film is serviced with a commentary by BBC reporter David Jessell. A transcript of the commentary appears overleaf.
SYNOPSIS: The month of April has seen a wave of student unrest in France, climaxed by big street demonstrations, violence and arrests. The unrest brought back memories of the May 1968 student revolt that paralysed France. BBC reporter David Jessell takes a closer look at the situation.