France to try teacher for burning ‘catastrophic’ exam papers

The board of education said the school was now drawing up a new test for the students whose results were incinerated.

A high school teacher is to face trial this autumn in France after setting fire to his pupils’ English exam papers to protest at the state education system.

Victor Immordino, 29, risks 10 years in jail and a 150,000-euro ($160,000) fine for setting 63 tests alight outside a Paris vocational school on Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office and board of education said on Wednesday.

‘I saw the exams,’ says teacher

“It was visual. My aim was to start a public debate,” the teacher told broadcaster BFMTV on Thursday.

“I saw the exams. They were catastrophic… They will be given another opportunity to resit them.”

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The prosecutor’s office said the teacher had been suspended and banned from approaching the school until his trial on October 27.

A video on newspaper Le Parisien’s website shows the teacher throwing the exam papers from mid-April into the flames of a tin dustbin on the pavement outside the school.

“In three years, I’ve seen that there’s no point in what we do, especially in English class,” he said as he burned the tests.

“We see students who have spent seven years in this system and can’t even string two words together.” 

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He told Le Parisien he had decided to tell the students what they would be tested on to help them pass their end-of-secondary-education exam, but the school had changed the questions last minute.

The board of education said the school was now drawing up a new test for the students whose results were incinerated.

Culture of protest

France has long had a culture of protest, last seen in repeated mass demonstrations this year against President Emmanuel Macron’s deeply unpopular pension reform to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Immordino’s suspension comes after the education ministry earlier this month said two university philosophy professors had been banned from teaching for three months over their views on social media.

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Franklin Nyamsi, who teaches in the northwestern city of Rouen, has said he believes he was sanctioned for his comments on French foreign policy in Africa. 

Rene Chiche, a professor and union activist teaching near the southern port city of Marseille, had criticised education at his university.

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