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February 2011

 File n°67 

The Children’s Parliament

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    The Children's Parliament has been jointly organized every year since 1994 by the departments of the National Assembly and those of the Ministry of National Education. On account of the presidential and general elections there was no Children's Parliament in 2007.

    It represents a “full-scale” lesson in civic education for the 577 children in their final year of primary school (one per constituency).

    Choices are made both of the classes who are to be represented (and who will choose their own junior M.P.) and of the bills to be debated and the questions to be put to the President of the National Assembly and the Minister of Education. The process takes place first at a local education authority level and then nationally and begins quite early in the school year, reaching its climax at the end of the month of May.

    The Children's Parliament takes place on a Saturday in June. The three best draft bills are examined during the morning by the children sitting in standing committees under the chairmanship of M.P.s. They are put forward by their authors and voted upon during the plenary sitting that very afternoon.

    The new website of the Children’s Parliament was launched in 2009:

    www.parlementdesenfants.fr

See also file 63

 

    As civic education is an integral part of the objectives of the school system, such a system must cover awareness of the universal values of the rights of man, of democracy and of the Republic.

    This awareness is particularly displayed in the operation called the “Children's Parliament” which was set up in 1994 by Mr. Philippe Séguin, then President of the National Assembly and has been repeated every year since, except in 2007 on account of the holding of presidential and general elections. It is based on a concrete presentation of the French parliamentary system and is jointly organized by the departments of the National Assembly and of the National Education ministry. It takes place throughout the school year and reaches its crescendo a Saturday in June at the Palais Bourbon.

    Children of between ten and eleven years old in the CM2 class, i.e. the final year of primary school, are asked to collectively prepare a draft bill. At the end of the year the representatives of the children of these classes, meeting in the “Children's Parliament” are asked to vote for one of the three draft bills that have been selected on a national scale.

    These children thus receive a “large-scale” lesson in civic education.

    A website for the Children’s Parliament was launched in 2009 to mark the 15th Children’s Parliament: www.parlementdesenfants.fr.

    I. – SELECTION OF THE CLASSES

    Since not all final-year primary school classes in metropolitan France and its overseas territorial units could send a representative to the Children's Parliament, were it only for the limited number of seats available in the Chamber of the National Assembly, it was decided that there should be the same number of participating classes as M.P.s, i.e. nowadays 577.

    Thus it is within each of the 577 electoral constituencies, once the applications have been received by mid November, that the departmental services of the Ministry of National Education choose the class, which for each constituency, will participate in the event. This choice is carried out after consultation, if necessary, with a selection committee. If in the rare cases where, within a department, no class is candidate, the departments of the Ministry of National Education will select one.

    The list and the addresses of the classes chosen are transmitted to the Communication Department of the National Assembly. M.P.s are informed of the class from their constituency which will take part in the event. They may also pay it a visit. The Departments of the National Assembly send a teaching pack to the classes in question and they are invited to come to visit the National Assembly.

    II. – WORK OF THE SELECTED CLASSES

    The work of the classes selected is to draw up a draft bill. This draft bill must fulfil certain formal criteria. In order to help the teachers, working themes are suggested without there being any binding nature to them.

    Each class must also draw up two questions: one for the National Education minister and the other for the President of the National Assembly.

    This work has to be sent in by mid-March.

    III. – PUPIL REPRESENTATIVES: THEIR APPOINTMENT AND ACCOMPANYING ADULT

    The pupils of each class selected elect one of their classmates to represent them at the National Assembly. The 577 children thus chosen attend the Children's Parliament at the National Assembly and sit in the Chamber, in the seat of the M.P. of their constituency. A substitute is appointed for each one in the case of absence.

    The teacher then informs the families of the representatives to ensure that they agree to the participation of their child in the sitting at the National Assembly and to gain an agreement on the person who will accompany them (one person per child is permitted since because of organizational reasons and on account of space only one adult per child can be hosted at the Palais Bourbon). The accompanying adult is chosen by the family: for obvious safety reasons it must be one of the two parents or a person appointed by the family. A prior written agreement must be drawn up with the persons in question concerning the communication of their personal address.

    Before the end of January, the names of the representatives, those of the substitutes and the names and addresses of the accompanying adults are transmitted to the departments of the Ministry of National Education and those of the National Assembly.

    IV. – HOW THE WINNING CLASSES ARE CHOSEN AT A REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LEVEL

    1. – Selection at a regional level

    As the work of each class is handed in before mid-March, the juries convene before the end of the same month in each region.

    These juries select the best draft bill for the region and name a winning class. Their criteria are the following:

    - The draft bill must fulfil the formal criteria ;

    - It must be a true piece of work of the pupils and correspond to their reasoning and their way of expression;

    - It must be a reflection of future citizens on societal problems;

    - It must correspond to real action to be taken or a possible law to be enacted.

    In addition and independently of the bills chosen, the juries also select a question for the Minister of National Education and another for the President of the National Assembly. The draft bills and the set of two questions are sent to the Education Board at the beginning of April.

    2. – Selection at a national level

    The national jury, made up of members of the National Education ministry and personalities chosen for their expertise by the National Assembly, meets before mid-May. It chooses the three best bills in no particular order according to the aforementioned criteria from amongst all the bills selected at a regional level.

    These three bills are printed by the printers of the National Assembly in the form of “parliamentary documents” and are sent to all the participating classes before the end of May so that they may debate them and give their opinion to their “junior representative” on which they feel is the best. The final choice will be the result of the vote of the “junior representatives” at the Palais Bourbon”.

    The questions which will be asked to the minister and to the President of the National Assembly are chosen from amongst those selected by the regional juries.

    V. – TRIP AND TIMETABLE FOR THE CHILDREN’S PARLIAMENT

    On the day of the event, the 577 “junior representatives” arrive at the Palais Bourbon for a day divided into two parts.

    In the morning, the children meet in committee chaired by M.P.s whose duty it is to lead a debate on the three bills.

    In the afternoon, the children sit in the Chamber, each in the seat of the M.P. of their constituency.

    The sitting begins with a speech by the President of the National Assembly. Then questions are asked to the President and to the minister who reply. After this, the three “junior representatives” of the classes whose bills have been selected take the floor at the rostrum to read a presentation of the reasons for their bill. The President of the National Assembly then has each of the bills voted upon. The results are announced by the President who then declares the final result of the Children's Parliament.

    The organization of this phase of the event is carried out by the departments of the National Assembly. They are in charge of informing the families of the practical aspects of the trip, the stay and the timetable of the day in Paris. All transport fees are reimbursed by the National Assembly.